Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Capitals Re-sign Dany Sabourin

The Washington Capitals have re-signed goaltender Dany Sabourin to a one year extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Sabourin, 31, went 18-12-5 with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 37 games with Hershey last season and posted a 3-2 record with a 3.19 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage in the Calder Cup playoffs. Sabourin was recalled to Washington for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and backed up Braden Holtby for the first four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals vs. Boston. He spent all of 2010-11 with the Bears, recording a 14-9-0 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 23 games.

The 6’4”, 204-pound Sabourin has appeared in 57 career NHL games with the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks, compiling a record of 18-25-0-4 with a 2.88 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.

The Val-d’Or, Quebec, native was originally Calgary’s fourth-round choice, 108th overall, in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The "young guns" finally come through

Just as I wrote in my previous post, the Capitals mindset coming into today's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals was going to be the key to the game.

They showed right from the opening faceoff they had put the disappointment of Game 3 behind them. Washington registered the game's first seven shots and scored the first goal.

The scorer of the first goal proved to be a foreshadowing of who was going to make the ultimate difference and allow the Capitals to tie the series for the second time.

Alex Ovechkin beat New York netminder Henrik Lunqvist high to the glove side on a slap-shot from the high slot at 12:43 to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. It was apparent here that the Capitals "young guns" had come to play.

Along with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin had strong first periods and both had quality scoring chances before Ovechkin's tally.

That strong play carried over into the second period as Semin tested Lunqvist several times in the periods first 10 minutes. Finally, at 11:54, Backstrom found the top left corner of the net to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead.

How Backstrom scored the goal is what was most telling. Already in the corner to the left of Lunqvist, Backstrom could see Rangers forward Artem Anisimov preparing to lay a check on him. So, instead of quickly pushing the puck along the boards, Backstrom barried his left elbow into Anisimov's chest; sending him to the ice.

Backstrom then pushed the puck behind the net and skated to the top of the right circle where Jason Chimera found him wide open for the goal.

Green came through for the Capitals late in the third as he buried a point shot on the power play with 5:48 to play to give Washington the win.

All playoffs long, it has been the grinders or "blue-coller" players that have come through for the Capitals, and they are going to have to continue to do so for Washington to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. But, it is also going to take contributions from the so called white-collar players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green.

Their natural skating, stick-handling and play-making ability allow them to open up the tight defense they are going to see not only from the Rangers, but any team they potentially play if they win this series.

Oh, and I can't finish this post without mentioning how these guys have also bought into Dale Hunters style of hockey.

How many times under Bruce Boudreau did you see Alex Semin back-checking the way he did today and has the entire playoffs, or Backstrom lay into a player the way he did Anisimov?

All three forwards have bought into Hunter's defense first system and are playing the physical, griding style of play they need to in order for the Caps to be be successful.

Ovechkin can't lift his skate off the ice like he did on Girardi's point shot that led to the Rangers first goal, but he dove to block several shots later in the game, so he seemed to realize he made a mistake.

The big four game through today as the Capitals tied the series. Heading to Madison Square Garden for a pivotal Game 5, a second collective performance from the "young guns" is definitely welcomed.

Game 4 all about mental preparation

Game 4 of the Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Semi-finals versus the New York Rangers is all about each teams mental make up.

In a game that could potentially determine the outcome of this series, how each team handles the outcome of Game 3 will decide who comes out on top in Game 4.

History shows that the winner of playoff games that last three or more periods usually win the series. This particular stat does not bode well for the Capitals as they have lost the previous three series they've played in that includes a triple overtime or more loss.

This group of Capitals, though, may be different. They overcame a two-games-to-one series deficit to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the previous round, and won Game 4 after losing Game 3 at Verizon Center on a late Zdeno Chara goal.

It's not like they haven't won a Game 4 in these playoffs after suffering a tough Game 3 loss. They've also won a series against a former Vezina Trophy winner who also happens to be the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

They also have a coach who knows what it's like to lose a game in the manner the Capitals lost Game 3 to the Rangers.

Dale Hunter was a member of the Capitals when they lost Game 4 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fourth overtime. That loss was also a home loss for Washington.

The impact Hunter has had on the teams mental toughness has been apparent since the start of the playoffs. You don't think he's told the players to forgot Game 3 was even played?

There are several things the Capitals are going to have to do to win Game 4. They are going to need more time in the offensive zone and more traffic in front of Henrik Lunqvist.

But, in order to do all of that they are going to have to have the right mindset when the puck drops Saturday afternoon.

I, for one, think they will.