Sunday, March 28, 2010

Early Deficit Proves too much for Caps to Overcome

By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—For the better part of the last three months, the Washington Capitals have met every challenge thrown their way. They have overcome multiple goal deficits on numerous occasions, and have even pulled through tough situations such as when Alex Ovechkin was ejected in the first period of the Capitals March 14 game against the Chicago Blackhawks; a game the Capitals won by overcoming a three goal third period deficit.
Sunday’s challenge, however, proved too tough for the Capitals to overcome.
Desperate to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race, the Calgary Flames played with a sense of urgency in the first period that you usually see in Game 6 of a playoff series when a team is looking to force a seventh game. The Flames opened up a three goal lead in first 10:34 of the first period and cruised to a desperately needed 5-3 win over the Capitals at Verizon Center.
“They really came in and played hard in the first,” said Capitals forward Mike Knuble. “We talked about the fact that they would because they’re playing for a spot in the playoffs and if they lose tonight they’re probably done. You know what kind of team you’re going to get, so there was no surprise.”
The Flames received goals from Rene Bourque, Ian White and Jay Bouwmeester to open up a 3-0 lead. The Flames made it 4-0 with 20 seconds remaining in the first period on a backhand shot from Niklas Hagman from the left circle.
“We didn’t have any energy,” said Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau. “Their sense of urgency was so tremendous they got called out by their GM yesterday, and they got embarrassed pretty well in Boston, so we knew they were going to come out. We just didn’t meet the push and for the first time in a long time it looked like Theo was struggling a little bit.”
Boudreau was referring to Flames general manager Darryl Sutter’s displeasure after the Flames were embarrassed Saturday in Boston, 5-0. Coach Brent Sutter also told his team before the game they needed to throw it all on the line against the Capitals.
Another factor that hurt the Capitals Sunday was the play of Jose Theodore. Theodore let in three goals on the Flames first 9 shots and was pulled by Boudreau after Bouwmeester’s tally made it 3-0. Boudreau, though, said he was not putting any blame on Theodore.
“I just thought he was fighting the puck,” said Boudreau of Theodore. “Every shot he was fighting the puck and I just didn’t think he had it today. He’ll be back in Tuesday, but he’s played a lot of good games where he’s kept us in in the first period, and we just weren’t ready to play in the first period.”
The Capitals were outshot 12-4 in the first period despite having two power plays to the Flames one.
The second period started better for the Capitals as Alex Ovechkin retook the league’s goal scoring lead with a power play goal at 3:49.
With Ales Kotalik and Mark Giordano in the penalty box, Ovechkin took a pass from Knuble and first a snap shot passed Flames netminder Mikka Kiprusoff to pull the Capitals to within 4-1.
Washington, however, was unable to sustain any momentum and fell behind by four goals again when Bourque’s backhander deflected up and over Semyon Varlamov at 17:34 of the second for a 5-1 Flames lead.
David Steckel scored his 5th goal of the season at 18:51 of the second and Mathieu Perreault, called up from Hershey due to Brenden Morrison being out, scored at 4:48 of the third to pull the Capitals within two, but at that point it was too late.
“When they made it 5-1, that was a tough one because I still thought if we make it 4-2 before the end of the period,” said Boudreau. “We’ve done it so many times where we’ve come back from a two goal deficit it’s not hard to believe, but a three goal deficit against a desperate team is a hard hill to climb.”
The loss was only the Capitals fifth regulation defeat since Jan. 1.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Capitals Edge Penguins in shootout

By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau tapped Mike Knuble on the shoulder Wednesday night and said “you’re next.”
The veteran forward has made his name in the NHL by being the gritty forward who will stand in front of the net and take the rough checks in order to score a goal, not by his shooting ability.
So, you can imagine Knuble’s surprise when Boudreau pegged him to enter the shootout in the fourth round against the Capitals arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I couldn’t believe Bruce gave it to me,” said Knuble. “I didn’t play in overtime at all, so I thought my night was over.”
Knuble did not disappoint as he skated in on Penguins netminder, Marc Andre-Fleury, flinched once, then beat Fleury top shelf to give the Capitals a 4-3 win, and complete a wild come from behind effort that saw the Capitals overcome a 2-0 deficit in the shootout.
“No, I don’t enjoy that one bit,” said Knuble jokingly when asked if it felt good to get the game-winner. “I told [Bruce] when I got off the ice, ‘I don’t like you when you do that. Don’t do that stuff to me.”
The goal was the first shootout goal of Knuble’s career as well as his first career shootout winner. Knuble also tallied at 1:09 of the second period for his 26th goal of the season, which gives him 20 goals in his last 34 games.
Boudreau had a very simple explanation for picking Knuble.
“When you don’t have time to think, I think it’s an advantage,” said Boudreau. “You see that a lot when a goalie gets pulled-the other goalie goes in and they shut the door because there’s no time to over think the game. Mike just went in and did what he does which is shoot the puck and he scored a goal. I just felt that he was going to score.”
Knuble’s tally followed goals by Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin after the Penguins had taken a 2-0 shootout lead.
Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby scored in succession before Ovechkin was able to get the Capitals on the board. Ovechkin deeked right and beat Fleury with a forehand shot to keep the Capitals alive.
Theodore followed by stoning Bill Geurin, and Alexander Semin tied the shootout on a pretty forehand to backhand goal that beat Fleury top shelf.
Theodore responded by stopping Chris Kunitz before Knuble sealed the game for Washington.
“I’m playing the way I should every day,” said Theodore, who finished with 39 saves to improve to 17-0-2 since Jan. 13. “Then in the shootout, we scored some big goals.”
The Capitals have made many thrilling comebacks this season with one of them coming in their last meeting with the Penguins on Feb. 7. However, none of them had the Capitals trailing 2-0 in a shootout.
“It was awesome you can feel it on the bench with the skills we have we are never done and we showed it tonight,” said Eric Belanger. “This is something that’s not going to be there in the playoffs so nice to be able to do it and get some points right now.
The win allowed the Capitals to tie the franchise record for points in a season (108), which they set last season. The Capitals tied that mark with nine games remaining this season.
The Capitals roared back early in the third period on goals by Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr after the Penguins had grabbed a 2-1 lead late in the second.
With the Capitals shorthanded, Semin intercepted a pass from Crosby in the Capitals zone and raced up ice. Semin cut to the middle of the slot and fired a wrist shot top shelf passed Fleury’s glove to tie the game at 5:36 of the third.
Less than two minutes later, the Verizon Center crowd was again on their feet cheering.
Belanger skated hard through the neutral zone and skated all the way around the Penguins net before sending a pass to Mike Green, who was in the left circle. Green fired a hard slap shot that was tipped by Fehr in front and passed Fleury at 7:32.
Fehr had his 21st of the season, and the Capitals were back in the lead.
It looked like the Capitals were going to be able hang on until Jordan Staal beat Theodore high to the glove side with 3:06 to go to tie the game at 3.
“This is a team if we want to go deep in the playoffs we are going to have to face, so we want to show them it’s going to be a tough building to play in,” said Belanger. “To get the win tonight, I think it’s good for our confidence.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Second Period Recap

The Capitals outshot the Penguins 13-9 in the second period, and even scored the first goal of the game, but find themselves trailing by one heading in to the third period.

Mike Knuble scored 1:09 in to the period, his 26th of the year, on a rebound of a Nicklas Backstrom shot to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

Backstrom was stopped in the slot by Fleury, but the puck deflected straight up and landed behind Fleury. Knuble poked in the loose puck before it rolled passed the net.

Pittsburgh responded just 1:13 later on a deflection. Maxim Talbot, last year's hero for the Penguins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, deflected Brooks Orpiks shot from the top of the right circle passed Theodore at 2:21.

Theodore attempted to push a rebound to Joe Corvo, but Corvo over skated the puck, which allowed Craig Adams to scoop it up and pass to Orpik.

After a tripping call on Tomas Fleischmann at 13:44, Bill Guerin put Pittsburgh in front for the first time on a one-timer from the low slot on a pass from Crosby. The Capitals failed to clear the puck, and as Crosby charged the net he found a wide open Guerin who easily put home the one-timer.

First Period Recap

The Capitals and Penguins just finished an entertaining first period that saw the Penguins outshoot the Caps 17-9.

Pittsburgh definitely got the better of the chances, but Jose Theodore thwarted every one of them. Theodore stops Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko in close, and stopped Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby in succession on a late Pittsburgh power play.

The Capitals had a few good chances, most notably John Carlson's point shot that briefly lay in front of Marc-Andre Fleury before it was cleared.

There were a few scrums, as expected, with the biggest coming after Theodre stopped Dupuis on consecutive shots with 3:39 to go in the period.

Shaone Morrison and a Pittsburgh defensemen traded face washes while Eric Fehr wound up in the corner throwing what looked like a few minor jabs himself.

No penalties were called.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Caps College Hockey Fair has grown since its inception

By: Justin Creech
On Sunday March 28, 2010, the fourth annual Washington Capitals College Hockey Fair will emanate from the Verizon Center. Registration will begin at 8:45 am with the fair beginning one hour later.
Now in its fourth year, the Capitals College Hockey Fair has grown tremendously since it’s inception three years ago. This year’s fair will have representatives from 24 schools from the NCAA, ECAC, WCHA, NESCAC, and the ACHA.
Schools such as Providence College, Quinnipiac, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Bemidji State will represent ECAC and WCHA Division-1 Varsity programs, while Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland and George Mason University will represent local schools.
“What we try to bring out in our college day is to show the kids that there are different roads to go to college. That anytime you combine athletics and academics it’s a great combination,” said Comcast SportsNet hockey analyst Craig Laughlin. “But they have to understand that academics are ultimately the goal. They can’t be thinking about the NHL yet, they’ve got to be thinking of just pursuing the collegiate route, and we try to show them that there are different routes.”
The fair will cover a wide range of topics from what coaches look for while recruiting a player to NCAA compliance rules. Michael Robinson, Financial Aid Counselor at the University of Maryland will be in attendance to give information on admissions and financial aid.
This year’s fair will also feature a breakout session where those in attendance can speak to players who are currently playing at the Divison 1, 2, and 3 levels.
“We wanted to give the kids a chance to hear what it’s like to play college hockey from those who know it first hand,” said Steve Hyjek, who is the head of the fair’s organizing committee. “We want the players to talk about how they chose the school they currently attend, and what surprised them when they first got to college.”
Along with the breakout sessions, Paul Kelly, the former director of the NHL’s Player Association, and now the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc., will also be in attendance.
The topics being covered at this year’s fair is a far cry from the topics covered at the first College Hockey Fair.
“The first year we had about 125 people in attendance, and about 10 ACHA programs,” said Hyjek. “We mainly wanted to show the kids that playing in the junior leagues wasn’t their only option to get to college.”
Hyjek said the main goal he wanted to accomplish during the inaugural fair was to erase some of the myths about who could and couldn’t play college hockey.
However, Hyjek, and the Capitals organization wanted to expand the fair, both the venue in which it was held, and the topics being covered.
The inaugural fair was held at the Holiday Inn on Glebe Rd in Arlington, Virginia, but moved to the Verizon Center in 2008, and was held on the Washington Wizards practice court.
Capitals Coordinator of Amateur Hockey and Fan Development, Peter Robinson, said the decision to move the fair to the Verizon Center was made in order to have the fair at a more central location.
“We wanted to bring the fair to a place that made more sense and had more of a connection to the Caps,” said Robinson. “Having it at a hotel in Virginia is going to be great if you live in Virginia, but it’s not going to be very convenient to everybody that lives in Maryland, or even if you’re coming from Richmond.”
A new location combined with having the fair on the final day of the NHL regular season made 2008 a huge success. Those who registered for the hockey fair received discounted tickets to the Capitals regular season finale against the Florida Panthers; a game in which the Capitals won, 3-1, to clinch the Southeast Division and the franchise’s first playoff appearance in five years.
One result of the hockey fair has been the increased attention college coaches are giving recruits in the Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland area.
“It’s exciting because more players from VA, MD and the District of Columbia are getting an opportunity to play at the collegiate level,” said Laughlin, who played at Clarkson University from 1976-1980. “I was from Canada and it’s a totally different landscape. Canadians are heavily recruited as here in MD kids have to accelerate their development through being in fantastic shape, playing at the highest level, then going to college and combining athletics and academics.”
Laughlin will Emcee the event for the fourth year in a row, and attracted his broadcast partner, Joe Beninati, to Co-Host. Beninati, who attended Division 3 Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, played both hockey and lacrosse during his time at Bowdoin, however never played varsity hockey due to an injury he suffered during his freshman year.
Beninati, who holds a degree in Biology, wants to stress to young kids they don’t have to go to the powerhouse schools to play college hockey, but also the value of getting a good education.
“For me it was invaluable,” said Beninati. “The biggest thing for these kids to realize is there is a lot of good hockey players in this country and we’re even seeing European players start to filter in to the U.S. college ranks. So, don’t get fixated on I’m going to be first team All-American at North Dakota or the University of Michigan or one of these powerhouse division 1 programs. There are a lot of places to play good college hockey in the country.”
The success of the fair has also gone beyond just recruiting. The fair was mentioned at the NHL League meetings in Chicago in February as part of the youth hockey discussions.
Robinson also said he has received e-mails from other organizations in the NHL, as well as some teams in the National Basketball Association; all wanting to know if a similar event would work for their team or league.
“I think it could work in every NHL city, and it’s perfect for what USA Hockey is trying to do with their new American Development model,” said Robinson. “They are trying to promote USA hockey and college hockey so that kids don’t go to Canada, or won’t leave the area so they will stay in the system and develop so we have a better pool of kids to choose from.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

NHL Suspends Ovechkin for 2 games

NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell suspended Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin this afternoon for 2 games without pay as a result of Ovechkin's boarding hit on Chicago Blackhawks defensman Brian Campbell in the first period of yesterday's 4-3 overtime win.

Ovechkin, the NHL's two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner, was ejected after receivng a five-minute major and it has been reported that Campbell will most likely miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken clavicle, ribs, and suffering a concussion.

The suspension will cost Ovechkin $232,645.40 in salary as he will have to sit out tomorrow's game against the Florida Panthers, and Thursday's game in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes.

It is the second time this season that Ovechkin has been been ejected from a game due to receiving a boarding major. Ovechkin was ejected from the Capitals Nov. 25 game versus the Buffalo Sabres early in the third period after receiving a five minute major and a game misconduct for boarding the Sabres' Patrick Kaletta. Ovechkin was suspended Nov. 30 for a knee on knee hit on the Hurricane's Tim Gleason.

“We have no problem with the way Alex tried to finish his check," said Capitals' General Manager George McPhee. "Unfortunately, an injury resulted. We are disappointed with the suspension but do not want to comment further."

McPhee's response is no surprise due to his tight lipped nature. I, however, have the forum to share my true feelings.

The NHL dropped the ball on this decision. Just one week ago, Campbell decided to not punish Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Matt Cooke for his blind side shoulder to head hit on Boston Bruins' star forward Marc Savard.

Savard suffered a grade 2 concussion and will miss the remainder of the Bruin's season, however much longer it might be.

Campbell stated that because shoulder to head hits are currently legal, he did not feel it necessary that Cooke face further discipline, despite Savard suffering a significant injury and the fact that Cooke is a repeat offender.

So, what Campbell and the NHL are saying is that it is ok to severly injure another player as long as it is within the rules. It's ok to hit an unsuspecting player hard enough to cause him to suffer a severe concussion because the NHL rule book says it's ok too.

Look, I don't disagree that Ovechkin plays with reckless abandon. I don't disagree that Ovechkin has made some questionable decision's with regards to the hits he has chosen to make, especially this season. I also don't disagree that if Ovechkin doesn't learn to reign in his animal like aggresiveness that he may end up doing more damage to his own self then any one of his counterparts.

However what I do disagree with is the apparent bias in which the NHL has handled two very similiar situations.

Ovechkin did make a questionable decision in pushing Campbell in to the boards, but so did Cooke in his decision to level Savard, but for whatever reason, Oveckin is the one that receives further discipline.

The NHL got this one wrong on so many levels that the league's discipline choices have become laughable.

Colin Campbell deemed Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell "reckless." Ask Marc Savard what he considers reckless. I don't think his answer will surprise anyone.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Capitals Fall in last game of home stand

By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—One night after clinching their third straight Southeast Division championship, Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau chastised his team for their lack of effort.
Boudreau’s criticism was well placed.

The Capitals were largely outworked by the Lightning, including a long stretch that went from the middle of the second period in to the third period in which the Lightning grabbed a two goal lead and ultimately held on for a 3-2 win at Verizon Center.

The loss was the second in the Capitals last three home games after winning a franchise record 13 straight on home ice, and prevented the Capitals from becoming the first team to pass 100 points this season.

“Once they started to believe they could win they won every battle and they outworked us,” said Boudreau of his team’s effort. “You’re not going to win if you don’t work hard. I don’t care who you are.”

The Capitals outshot the Lightning 13-0 over the first 11:30 of the second period including consecutive power plays, but were unable to penetrate Lightning netminder Antero Nittymaki, who finished with 28 saves.

Lightning defenseman Matt Walker scored on Tampa Bay’s first shot of the period off a faceoff in the Capitals zone, then got a fluky goal from Captain Vincent Lecavalier on a shot from the point that deflected off of his shoulder passed netminder Semyon Varlamov for a 3-1 lead, and for all intents and purposes the game’s momentum.

“We were pushing pretty well I thought,” said Capitals forward Mike Knuble. “We had a good power play some good 5 on 5 shifts down there then they get a bang bang off the faceoff and that kind of deflated us a little bit then a fluky one off Vinny and all of a sudden you’re down two. It’s kind of what we do to teams, but I guess you can say we made a game of it, but overall we have to have a better effort.”

Asked after the game if he thought the Lightning were benefits of good goaltending and some fortunate bounches, Boudreau disagreed, saying luck had nothing to do with the his team’s loss.
“If you’re not working hard you’re not going to get one bounce off of you in the front of the net like Lecavalier did,” said Boudreau. “But he worked hard, so it bounced off of him. Did we do that enough? No, we didn’t do it enough.”

Brooks Laich pulled the Capitals to within one with 8:51 to go on a rebound of Mike Green’s point shot on the power play. It was Laich’s 21st goal of the season and the second power play goal of the game for the Capitals.

Laich’s goal, however, didn’t provide the spark the Capitals needed, and provided more food for thought as to whether or not the Capitals are going to be able to stay motivated the remainder of the regular season with such a big lead over the remainder of the Eastern Conference.

“We need to realize the playoffs are coming,” said Knuble. “You don’t just flip the switch because it’s a playoff game.”

Tomas Fleischmann got the Capitals off to a good start with a power play goal at 16:55 of the first period. After Knuble dug the back off of the rear boards, he sent a pass to Alex Ovechkin, who was waiting in the right circle. Ovechkin moved up the far boards before sending a cross-ice pass to Fleischmann, who got down on one knee before firing the one-timer passed Nittymaki.

The goal was Fleishcmann’s 20th of the season and second in as many games after scoring the game winner in overtime Wednesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The lead, like many for the Capitals lately, didn’t last long.

Lightning forward Brandon Bochenski took a pass in the neutral zone from Todd Fedoruk and after skating in to the Capitals zone fired a shot over Varlamov’s right shoulder to tie the game at 1 with 48 seconds left in the first period.

The Capitals now embark on a four game road trip that starts with a nationally televised game on NBC Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks; a game that the Capitals would have liked to have headed in to with some momentum.

“They’re the best team in the West, so it will be quite a test for us,” said Boudreau. “It’s difficult enough to start a road trip on the heels of a win, and we didn’t do it. We have to dig deep tomorrow and we’ll have a good practice and get [to Chicago] and play better.”

1st period recap

Tomas Fleischmann knotched his 20th goal of the season, the first 20 goal season of his career, on the power play at 16:55, but the Capitals gave it right back at 19:12 when Brandon Bochenski tallied for the Lightning.

Fleischmann's goal came on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Alex Ovechkin after Mike Knuble dug the puck off the back wall. Fleischmann got down on one knee in the bottom of the left circle to finish the one time pass and give the Caps a 1-0 lead.

But, Bochenski came in to the Caps zone unabated and beat Varly with a wrist shot over his right shoulder to tie the game.

The Capitals outshot the Lightning 8-7 for the period.

1st period update

Alexander Semin was clipped in the mouth on his first shift of the game after pushing a shot wide of Lightning netminder Antero Nittymaki. Semin went to the bench with blood on his upper lip and received minor treatment from the Capitals training staff.

He is back on the ice now for his second shift.

Pre-game notes

On an interesting note, Ryan Malone and Mattias Ohlund are scratches tonight for the Lightning. I don't know if they are healthy scratches, or injured, but for a team that is fighting to get in to the playoffs, not having two of your better players in the lineup against the NHL's best team is not good.

Pre-game Notes

The Washington Capitals face Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay tonight at Verizon Center for the third time this season.

It is the fifth overall meeting this season with the Capitals currently holding a 3-1 edge in the season series.

The Capitals won the first two meetings this season at Verizon Center, 3-2 on January 31 on a late third period goal by Alex Ovechkin, and again last Thursday, 5-4, thanks to two third period goals from the newly acquired Scott Walker.

Washington enters tonight's game on the heels of a thrilling overtime win over fellow Southeast Division rival Carolina on Wednesday. Tomas Fleischmann notched his 19th goal of the season at 3:20 of the extra session to give the Capitals a 4-3 win.

The Capitals also enter tonight's contest as newly crowned division champions. Thanks to the Atlanta Thrashers dropping a 2-1 contest to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night in regulation, the Capitals clinched the Southeast Division for the third year in a row; becoming the only team to win the division three times.

The Lightning fell to the Tortonto Maple Leafs last night, 4-3, in overtime to fall six points behind the Boston Bruins for the Eastern Conferences' 8th and final playoff spot. The Lightning have lost seven of eight games overall entering tonight's contest.

Semyon Varlamov should get the start in goal tonight for the Capitals as Coach Bruce Boudreau rests Jose Theodore for Sunday's nationally televised contest in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Here are tonight's projected forward lines:

Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble
Semin, B. Morrison, Laich
Chimera, Fleischmann, Fehr
Walker, Steckel, Bradley

D-pairings:
Schultz-Green
Poti-Erskine
Sloan, Corvo

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fleischmann Saves Caps in Overtime

By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—Tomas Fleischmann was greeted by a group of Priests in the Capitals locker room after last night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Thankfully for Fleischmann, and the Capitals, they did were not in the locker room to forgive Fleischmann for his sins.
Fleischmann scored the game winning goal 3:20 into overtime on a beautiful pass from Eric Belanger to give the Capitals a thrilling 4-3 win in front of 18, 277 at Verizon Center and extend the Capitals regulation home unbeaten streak to 15 games.
“I just jumped from the bench, [Belanger] make the pass,” said a pleased Fleischmann. “I didn’t have it all the way, but it went in, so I’m happy.”
After a transition in the neutral zone, Belanger skated into the Hurricanes’ zone and sent a pass to Fleischmann that Fleischmann easily put into the net. The goal was Fleischmann’s 19th of the season and his first since before the Olympic break.
Fleischmann, who was a healthy scratch Monday night against the Dallas Stars, said he had a specific message for Coach Bruce Boudreau.
“Don’t sit me out again,” said Fleischmann.
The remark drew a laugh from Boudreau in the post game press conference, but Boudreau did say that he knows how Fleischmann feels.
“He’s a good player and if the circumstances weren’t what they are he wouldn’t be sitting out,” said Boudreau. “But, it’s only march 10, and if we started playing everybody and somebody got hurt the first game of the playoffs that’s 30 days before a guys played. It’s not fair to that player, and it’s not fair to the team. I don’t like doing it either, but as long as we can we are going to keep rotating guys in and out of the lineup.”
The assist was Belanger’s second point in the last three games after scoring a goal in the second period of Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers, prompting Belanger to say he is feeling more comfortable each game.
“I’m feeling good,” said Belanger.”I’m playing with some confidence and I’m playing with good players. There’s still a little bit of the system that I need to get under my feet, but it’s going better and better every game.”
Mike Green and Alexander Semin also scored for the Capitals with Green finishing with two tallies. Both came on the power play, one in the first and one in the second, as the Capitals registered their first multi power play goal game since Feb. 13 against the St. Louis Blues. It was also Green’s first multi goal game since Jan. 12 in Tampa Bay.
Though Green was fantastic on the power play, he was equally ineffective in the Capitals defensive zone.
With the Capitals holding a 2-1 lead, Green’s errant clearing attempt was intercepted by Patrick Dwyer along the far boards and sent to Tuomo Ruutu who was open in the high slot. Ruutu’s shot beat Capitals netminder Jose Theodore to tie the game at 8:43.
“He got two goals and one beautiful assist, but the assist was to the wrong team,” said Boudreau. “His idea was right but he was being too casual and trying to finesse the puck in there.”
Semin got the Capitals on the board 2:24 in to the game after taking a pass from Brenden Morrison at the Carolina blue line. Semin raced to the net, cut in front of Hurricanes’ defensemen Jay Harrson and beat Manny Legace with a beautiful backhand shot to the blocker side for a 1-0 lead.
Green stretched the lead to 2-0 at 17:59 on a shot from the middle of the left circle that beat Legace five-hole.
That’s when things got interesting. Just 18 seconds later, Dwyer batted the puck past Theodore with the puck in mid-air after Theodore had stopped Tom Kostpoulos’s shot from the point.
Ruutu tallied to tie the game, then after Green put the Capitals back in the lead with his second power play goal at 11:02, Jussi Jokinen tied the game once again with a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Theodore to his glove side at 15:03 of the second period.
It was the third time in four games the Capitals have surrendered a two goal lead.
“We try, but we’ve got to learn it,” said Fleischmann of the Capitals defensive lapses. “If we pay more attention to the defense they wouldn’t have scored those goals.”

Pens' Cooke avoids suspension

NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell announced earlier today that Pittsburgh Penguins' forward Matt Cooke would not be suspended for his shoulder to head hit on Boston Bruins' forward Marc Savard on Sunday afternoon.

Savard suffered a Grade 2 concussion as a result of the hit, and it is highly likely that Savard will miss the remainder of the season.

At the general managers meetings' in Boca Raton, Fla, Campbell said that he had to remain consistent when debating whether or not he should punish Cooke for his hit, citing that Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards was not suspended for his shoulder to head hit on Florida Panther's forward David Boothe on Oct. 24.

Though a repeat offender, Campbell said he could not use that as criteria in deciding whether or not to suspend Cooke, as shoulder to head hits are currently legal.

Although I understand Campbell's logic, I do not agree with his decision. Cooke has a history of incidents on the ice as he was suspended for two games in November after a hit to the head on New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov, and was again suspended for two games on Jan. 20 for a hit on then Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker.

Ok, I understand that Campbell has disciplined Cooke before, and, yes, shoulder to head hits are currently legal in the NHL. But, Cooke sized Savard up as he went to hit him, and showed no remorse in the locker room afterwards going as far as to say he was hit a few shifts prior, and no penalty was called.

Come on, Matt, you're in the NHL. You're a big boy, 5 ft 11, 205 pounds, and have been in the league for 10 years. Don't cry just because someone got a clean check on you, that's what you signed up for.

Pre-game Notes

The Washington Capitals take on Southeast Division rival Carolina in a little over an hour, and tonight's game has a much different feel then their last meeting.

On December 28, the Hurricanes were one of the worst team's in the league while the Capitals were coming off a 4-1 win over the then Eastern Conference leading New Jersey Devils. Just hours before that game, Capitlas General Manager George McPhee pulled the trigger on a trade that sent then Captain Chris Clark, and Milan Jurcina to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jason Chimera.

Carolina jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and didn't look back in beating the Caps 6-3. That was the last time the Capitals tasted defeat in regulation on home ice. Carolina enters tonight's game as the hottest team in the league as they have won eight of their last 10 and 17 of their last 25.

The Capitals are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss on Monday night to the Dallas Stars. The Capitals gave up a 2-0 lead in the third period, but managed to send the game to overtime thanks to a late goal by Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin's two goals snapped his six game goal-scoring drought and put himself back into a tie for the league lead in goals (44) with the Penguins Sidney Crosby.

Here are the forward lines for the Caps tonight:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Fleischmann-Morrison-Semin
Laich-Belanger-Walker
Gordon-Steckel-Bradley

Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr will sit tonight for the Capitals.

Jose Theodore, who has a 12-0-2 mark in his last 14 starts and a .981 save percentage gets the start in goal tonight.

Here are several more notes to keep in mind as you watch tonight's game:

NOTE OF THE NIGHT
Home wreckers – Carolina was the last team to defeat the Capitals in regulation at home, 6-3 on Dec. 28. Washington has the best home record in the league at 25-3-4 and had a franchise record 13-game home winning streak snapped Wednesday night. The Caps are 75-20-10 at home under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
FIVE MORE NOTES NO MEDIA PERSON SHOULD BE WITHOUT
Pass to the right guys – The Capitals and Hurricanes completed two trades on March 3, sending Joe Corvo and Scott Walker to D.C. and Brian Pothier to Carolina. Wednesday night marks the first time each player will face his former teammates.
Double trouble – The fifth game of Bruce Boudreau’s NHL coaching career (11/30/07 at Carolina) was the last time Alex Ovechkin scored two or more goals and the Capitals lost in regulation. The Caps are 32-0-3 since then when Ovechkin has a multiple-goal game. Monday was his 12th multiple-goal game of this season as he snapped a stretch of six games without a goal.
Blank stare – Jose Theodore recorded his first shutout of the season, his third as a Capital and the 29th of his career with a 30-save effort Saturday against the New York Rangers. Theodore has stopped 53 of 54 shots in two starts since the Olympic break (.981) and is 12-0-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage since Jan. 13.
Shots, clocked – Washington’s 52 shots on goal against Dallas Monday night were a season high and tied for the third-most in franchise history (most since firing 55 shots in a 3-2 loss to Florida Dec. 18, 2005). The Caps had 23 shots in the second period, their most in a period this year. Despite the shots, the Capitals –whose 11.8% shooting percentage on the season leads the league –scored only three goals (5.8%).
Goal oriented – The Capitals lead the NHL with 256 goals, 47 more (or 22% more) than the next-closest team (not counting shootout “goals” reflected in the standings). It’s the largest gap between the top two offensive teams since 1992-93, when Detroit led the league in scoring by 50 goals.
Washington leads the league in goals per game (3.88), even-strength goals (188), power-play goals (65), home goals (127), road goals (129), first-period goals (75), second-period goals (85) and third-period goals (93). Even if you take away their league-leading power play, the Caps would still rank ninth in the league with 191 goals (entering Tuesday’s games). At their current pace the Capitals would finish as the highest scoring team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Second period recap

The Capitals just finished another dominating period as they out shot the Stars 23-11 in the second period and put another goal on the scoreboard.

Alex Ovechkin broke his six game goal scoring drought at 14:37 on a power play strike. Ovechkin took a pass from Semin and fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that beat Marty Turco.

It was the Capitals 8th shot on the power play.

The shot went through the legs of the Stars' Karlis Skrastins which may have obscurred Turco's view of the puck.

The goal game with 15 seconds left on the Capitals power play after they failed to score with 1:25 of 5 on 3 time. Skrastins was in the box for a hook on Brenden Morrison while Stephane Robidas was in the penalty box for a delay of game call.

The goal was Ovechkin's 43rd of the year, and pulled him to within one of the Penguins Sidney Crosby for the league lead.

First Period Recap

The Washington Capitals just wrapped up a dominating first period in which they out shot the Dallas Stars 19-5 and grabbed a 1-0 lead.

Tom Poti tallied for Washington, taking a pass from David Steckel from the near boards and beating the Stars Marty Turco to his blocker side at 2:51. It was only the Capitals second shot of the game and marked the fourth straight game that the Capitals have scored the games first goal.

Semyon Varlamov is in goal tonight for the Capitals and was strong when he needed to be. Varlamov stopped two shots at point blank range within the games first 2:12.

Brenden Morrow was stopped within the first minute of the game on a semi-breakaway after deeking Nicklas Backstrom and taking a backhand shot on Varlamov.

Varlamov also stopped Loui Erikkson from just below the circles after he corralled Steve Ott's rebound and attempted to beat Varlamov blocker side.

The Capitals registered the last 10 shots of the first period.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pre-Game Notes

The Washington Capitals play the second of a five game homestand tonight as they host the New York Rangers.

The Capitals won their first game of the homestand Thursday night, 5-4, over the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Caps and Rangers as the Caps currently hold a 2-1-0 record through the first three games.

The Rangers won their last visit to Verizon Center, 4-3, on October 8 on two third period goals by Marian Gaborik.

Since trading for Ollie Jokinen before the Olympic Break, the Rangers have scored fewer then three goals just once in their last seven games. They scored five agains the Capitals in their last meeting, a 6-5 Capitals win on February 4 at Madison Square Garden.

It will be interesting to see who Bruce Boudreau decides to scratch tonight after scratching David Steckel, Matt Bradley, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan on Thursday. My guess is they will be scratched again tonight as Boudreau continues to figure out who he wants his regulars to be as the Caps near the start of the playoffs.

Here are the expected lines for tonight's contest:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Morrison-Semin
Fleischmann-Belanger-Fehr
Chimera-Gordon-Walker

The 'D' pairs, meantime, will feature three lefties and three righties:
Schultz-Green
Poti-Corvo
Morrisonn-Carlson

Here are a few more notes to keep in mind as you watch tonights game:

Home run – Washington, 24-3-3 at home, has a club-record 12 straight wins. It’s one game shy of tying the franchise record for longest home unbeaten streak and it’s tied for the third-longest home winning streak in the NHL since 1994-95. The Capitals haven’t lost at home in the new year, since a Dec. 28 loss to Carolina, and are 74-20-9 at home under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Longest Home Winning Streaks of the Last 15 Years
14 – Boston, 10/25/08 – 1/1/09
13 – Detroit, 12/20/06 – 2/21/07
12 – Washington, 1/5/10 – 3/4/10
12 – Two other times by Detroit, both in 1995-96
FIVE MORE NOTES NO MEDIA PERSON SHOULD BE WITHOUT
Green machine – NHL defensemen have combined for eight point streaks of seven games or more this season. Four of those streaks – including the three longest – belong to Mike Green. Green has points in each of the last nine games he has played (3g-10a), including seven straight since serving a suspension. He hasn’t gone three straight games without a point all year.
Green leads all NHL defensemen in goals (15), assists (48) and points (63). His +31 rating is second among all NHL defensemen, trailing only teammate Jeff Schultz (+39). Green has joined Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer as the only defensemen with two 60-point seasons since the 2004-05 work stoppage.
Walker runs – Newly acquired Scott Walker scored two goals in the third period Thursday night, the first Capital since Alex Ovechkin to score twice in his debut for the team. Walker had three goals in 33 games prior to the trade.
History in the making – With 18 games left in the season, the Capitals already have the eighth-most points (94) in their history and seventh-most wins (43).
K Street – Mike Knuble has 15 goals in the last 18 games and 18 goals in the last 22 games. He is enjoying his seventh consecutive 20-goal season – joining Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Martin St. Louis as the only players with 20-plus goals in each of those seasons. With 25 goals – despite missing 12 games with a broken finger – Knuble, at 37, leads all players 33 and older in goals. He leads the NHL with a 22.3% shooting percentage.
Goal oriented – The Capitals lead the NHL with 251 goals, 47 more (or 23% more) than the next-closest team (not counting shootout “goals” reflected in the standings). It’s the largest gap between the top two offensive teams since 1992-93, when Detroit led the league in scoring by 50 goals.
Washington leads the league in goals per game (3.92), even-strength goals (185), power-play goals (63), home goals (122), road goals (129), first-period goals (73), second-period goals (83, tied) and third-period goals (92). Even if you take away their league-leading power play, the Caps would still rank tied for sixth in the league with 188 goals. At their current pace the Capitals would finish as the highest scoring team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Walker and Knuble lead Capitals to Victory

By: Justin Creech
Washington, DC—The Washington Capitals are built around youth, but it was the team’s two eldest statesman that led them to victory Thursday night.
Mike Knuble and Scott Walker each tallied twice as the Capitals fended off a late surge by the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning and held on for a 5-4 win in front of a sold out crowd at Verizon Center.
Knuble tallied twice 6:04 apart in the second period, his 24th and 25th goals of the season to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead while Walker; acquired Wednesday afternoon just before the NHL trade deadline, scored both of his goals 1:58 apart in the third period; the last providing the final margin of victory.
“I thought of that on the bench,” said a jovial Knuble. “We checked the stats on each other to see who was older. I thought he was older, so George has to bring someone else in so I’m not the old guy.”
Walker’s first goal appeared to give the Capitals a comfortable two goal lead at 10:11 of the third, but the Capitals relaxed and allowed the Lightning to tally twice 1:53 apart on goals by Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos to tie the game at 4.
The lapse allowed Walker to be the hero in his debut. Known for having a knack for scoring timely goals, Walker shook off two members of the Lightning, deflected Mike Green’s point shot and dove to push the puck between Lightning netminder Mike Smiths’ legs at 13:09.
“I’m not the biggest guy in the world, so I try to cycle the puck as much as can,” said Walker of the elusiveness of his two goals. “My line mates, I think, did a great job to get it back to the point. You got to get [the puck] back to guys like Greenie who can shoot. He puts the puck in play all the time and that helps.”
Capitals’ Coach Bruce Boudreau noted Walker’s knack for scoring timely goals before Wednesday’s game in Buffalo, and reiterated that fact again Thursday night.
“His history has been right place at the right time or the right hit,” said Boudreau. “Sometimes you look around the league at the trades and guys that are scoring in their first game are big game players.”
Though he remained humble, Walker did say it was nice to get his first goal as a Capital out of the way.
“You like to chip in where you can, and it definitely makes you feel good,” said Walker. “It’s nice to help out, but the two points is what I’m looking for here every night.”
Thursday’s game was also the debut for Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo, also acquired Wednesday. Belanger, who skated with Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann finished with 14:50 of ice time while Corvo, who skated with Tom Poti, finished with 20:19 of ice time.
The debuts’ forced Boudreau to scratch fourth line regulars David Steckel and Matt Bradley as well as John Erkskine, who usually skates with Poti.
Boudreau said he hopes the moves won’t have any long term ramifications in regards to chemistry.
“The biggest fear as a coach is hoping they meld as a unit and as individuals off the ice so that if one of them is not playing they want to play and as a teammate you’re hoping that they’re supportive,” said Boudreau. “This has to happen because we can’t send anyone back down and we can’t call anyone up.”
Erich Fehr got the scoring started at 6:10 of the first period on a beautiful snap shot from the top of the left circle. Fehr skated into the zone, and while waiting for one of his line mates to come open snapped a shot that deflected off Smith’s glove and in to the net.
Steve Downie tied the game 5:45 later on a beautiful deflection of Kurtis Foster’s point shot on the power play that went right between Semyon Varlamovs’ legs.
After Knuble stretched the Capitals lead to two in the second period, Lecavalier scored his first goal, also on the power play, on a wrist shot from the mid slot that beat Varlamov low to the blocker side.
The Capitals got themselves in trouble shortly after as Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Tom Poti were each whistled for penalties in a 56 second span.
With the Lightnings’ Victor Hedman also in the box, the Lightning enjoyed an extended 4 on 3 power play, but were unable to take advantage as Nicklas Backstrom, playing without his stick, blocked two shots in succession.
“I don’t know how many other superstars in the league would be doing that on a 4 on 3 which is what makes him special, but it was definitely a turning point,” said Boudreau. “If we let up and they had scored one early when nick was out there then all of a sudden they have a 4 on 3 again they could’ve gotten the lead and it’s a whole different story playing from behind then playing with the lead.”

Pre-game Notes

The Washington Capitals play their first home game since Super Bowl Sunday in a little less then an hour as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Three of the four new players acquired at the trade deadline yesterday will suit up and be in the line up tonight for the Capitals.

Here are the expected lines for tonight's contest:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Morrison-Semin
Fleischmann-Belanger-Fehr
Chimera-Gordon-Walker

The 'D' pairs, meantime, will feature three lefties and three righties:
Schultz-Green
Poti-Corvo
Morrisonn-Carlson

NOTE OF THE NIGHT
Home run –Washington, 23-3-3 at home, has a club-record 11 straight wins at Verizon Center as it begins a five-game homestand. The Capitals haven’t lost at home in the new year, since a Dec. 28 loss to Carolina.
Washington has sold out all 29 home games this year and a club-record 36 in a row dating back to last season. The Capitals have the fewest regulation losses at home in the NHL.
FIVE MORE NOTES NO MEDIA PERSON SHOULD BE WITHOUT
Welcome aboard –Thursday’s game could mark the Capitals debut for three players acquired before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline: Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo and Scott Walker.
90 and climbing –Alex Ovechkin –the only player in the NHL with 90 points each season since the lockout –is one point shy of that mark again this season. He has six more points than any other player (Henrik Sedin, 83, is second). Ovechkin is the only Capital in history with more than two consecutive 90-point seasons.
Green pastures –Mike Green has points in each of the last eight games he has played (3g-8a), including five straight since serving a suspension. He had the game-winning goal last night in Buffalo and leads all NHL defensemen in goals (15), assists (46) and points (61). His +29 rating is second among all NHL defensemen, trailing only teammate Jeff Schultz (+37). Green has joined Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer as the only defensemen with two 60-point seasons since the 2004-05 work stoppage.
Leading the way –The Capitals are the only team in the NHL with four players with 60-plus points and five players with 20-plus goals. The Capitals and Sharks are the only teams with two 30-goal scorers.
A solid stretch –The Capitals are 18-2-2 since Alex Ovechkin was named team captain Jan. 5 and have scored at least three goals in each of those 22 games.