Monday, December 29, 2008

Clark wins vote for most disappointing Capital

Chris Clark is the winner of FEAR THE WEAGLE's second poll of the season, taking the title of most disappointing Capital this season by a wide margin (65%). Coming in second was off-season acquisition Jose Theodore (34%), who is finally starting to come into his own, going 3-0-0 in his past three starts.

This was the first and only time this season the french-Canadian 'tender has been able to string three victories together.

He will start again tomorrow night as the Capitals head into Buffalo, hoping to beat them for the second time in five days.

FEAR THE WEAGLE will be down the next few days for the remainder of the holidays, and will be back to covering the Capitals effective January 2, 2009.

Happy New Year to all those who follow the blog, and may 2009 be kinder to the Capitals infirmary than was 2008.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Season update

Sorry to all the followers, I have been intensely busy lately with the Holiday's quickly approaching. Here is the low down on the Capitals right now.

Alexander Semin did not make the trip to Philadelphia for tonight's game as he has re-aggrivated his back injury in Thursday nights game. St. Louis forward David Backes delivered a cross check to the small of Semin's back mid-way through the third period, and he did not return to the game.

Simeon Varlamov has been returned to Hershey after two solid games between the pipes for the Capitals. Varlamov owns a 12-3-0 record since coming to North America, and with his brief stint in Washington, seems to have accelerated his development level, and could be NHL ready as soon as next year.

Continuing in that vein, there are three methods that would allow Varlamov to play in the NHL next year. Firstly, Brent Johnson's contract is up at the end of this year, so there is the option to not pick it up and spell Varlamov in his place next season. Secondly, they could buy out the remainder of Jose Theodore's 4.5 million dollar contract (which would be paid out over two years). Finally, they could pay Jose his 4.5 million as he plays in the minors for Hershey.

I'm not sure how probable any of these scenarios actually are, in my mind they are best to re-sign Johnson and ride out the last year of Theodore's contract, unless they are positive that Varlamov has what it takes to win a Stanley Cup at 21 years of age.

The last point I want to make is that the Capitals are in the midst of a five game win streak, and just reached their 20th victory of the season. I have noticed that they haven't really received full credit for their accomplishments to date and that teams like Boston, Pittsburgh, New York and Montreal are getting a lot more air time.

Here's an interesting tidbit for you:

If Washington beats Philadelphia tonight they will be the only team of the Big Seven (NYR, NJ, PIT, PHI, BOS, MTL, WSH) to hold wins of each of the other teams.

Boston: 2-2-2 with 2 wins over MTL (has not played PHI or NJ)
Montreal: 4-4-2 with 2 wins over PHI; 1 over NYR, BOS (has not played PIT)
New Jersey: 7-5-1 with 2 wins over WSH, PIT; 1 over NYR, MON, PHI (has not played BOS)
New York Rangers: 6-3-0 with 2 wins over PIT, NJ; 1 over PHI, BOS
Philadelphia: 4-3-3 with 2 wins over NJ; 1 over MTL, PIT (has not played WSH or BOS)
Pittsburgh: 4-3-3 with 2 wins over PHI; 1 win over BOS, NYR (has not played MTL)
Washington: 6-0-2 with 2 wins over MTL; 1 win over BOS, NJ, NYR, PIT (has not played PHI)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"KHL Attacks"

A story that is unrelated to the Capitals, but an interesting piece none the less.

The following video chronicles the creation and development of the Russian KHL League and the impact it will have in not only Europe and Asia, but also North America, as the new league attempts to compete with the NHL.

The video deals with some of the trials and tribulations of the new league and talks about how it could affect the future NHL draft status of many European born players.

It's a little long, so make sure you have time to watch the whole piece.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Della Rovere named to Team Canada

Barrie Colts forward Stefan Della Rovere was named to Team Canada's World Junior Hockey Championship roster early this morning. Della Rovere was one of 22 junior players to make the team, and the only Washington Capitals prospect.

You can catch a quick clip of Stefan HERE.

In selection camp, he notched 2 goals in 3 games.

It has also been confirmed that Russian prospect Dimitri Kugryshev will suit up for Team Russia at the tournament.

Kugryshev will be looked to for his offense and will most likely fit on his teams top two lines.

Canada, Russia, Sweeden and the USA are the favorites going into the tournament.

The WJHC's open on December 26th, 2008, and will be covered by TSN.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Caps down Habs 2-1.

It wasn't pretty, but I'm sure that if you asked the Washington Capitals, they wouldn't have much to complain about in Saturday's victory.

The Capitals entered a hostile environment on a national stage and were able to gut out a 2-1 victory over an ailing Canadiens team, facing the same ordeals which plagued Washington up until Friday.

Washington was first on the board as Nicklas Backstrom netted a power play goal mid way though the first. They finished 1-4 on the mad advantage for the night.

Montreal meanwhile could not get things going offensively throughout the first part of this game. Stars like Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay and former Cap Robert Lang were largely ineffective - especially on the man advantage - going 0-8 on the night. Montreal's power play has struggled greatly, and is now ranked 26th overall in the league, a unit that has been a league leader the past two years, now stagnant.

Les Habitants tied the game late in the second period on a Patrice Brisebois rocket which beat rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov over his shoulder.

The game would remain deadlocked until the final five minutes of the third period when a slumping Michael Nylander potted his third goal on the year, and his first in 26 games off the left pad of Jaroslav Halak.

Varlamov went on to stop 32 of 33 shots in his NHL debut.


-Nicklas Backstrom, Tyler Sloan and Sergei Fedorov all left the game with injuries. Backstrom seemed to be ailing from migraines, something he has had in the past, which is believed not to be serious. The status of Sloan and Fedorov is uncertain, and should be updated tomorrow.

-Simeon Varlamov looked rather impressive in his first National Hockey League game, and personally left me wishing I would be able to see more from him. He has a very aggressive style of play as he likes to get way out of his crease to challenge shooters and it worked like a charm last night as he was named the games first star. I was taken aback by the calm yet intense demeanor that he displayed, playing in arguably the toughest arena to start a professional career in, not to mention the most important night of the week in Canada. Nothing fazed him, most notably in the third period when he stopped all 14 shots he faced. The future seems bright for this young net minder.

-Washington will head to Long Island on Tuesday for their next game with the Islanders. If you are a fan up in Canada (like me), the game will be available on TSN2.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Varlamov will start on National Stage

This morning Bruce Boudreau confirmed that rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov will start in tonight's game in Montreal. The game will be broadcast nationally across Canada on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

"My thought was, 'Let's see what he's got'," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The last time I saw him [in Hershey] he was great. If it's baptism under fire, well then it's baptism under fire. We'll see how he reacts to it."

Varlamov has posted a 10-3-0 record in Hershey this year, as well as a 2.34 GAA and .909 SV%.

He was selected by Washington in the first round, 22nd overall in the 2006 draft.

Also, take a gander over at and have a look at their roster page. Brett Leonhardt has been added to the list of their goalies.

The WEAGLE will return tomorrow with thoughts on Varlamov's first professional start.

Leonhardt lives every hockey fans dream.

Just when things couldn't get any wackier for the Capitals, they did.

A rash of injuries forced Washington to morph into a hybrid NHL/AHL team, which featured a dozen call ups over the past month.

And yesterday, things got a bit hairier.

During a Thursday afternoon practice goaltender Jose Theodore tweaked a hip flexor, ironically the same injury which has hampered Brent Johnson through the early part of the season.

On game day things went from bad to worse as Theodore was forced to leave practice early as his injury persisted.

Summon Brett Leonhardt.

Leonhardt, a web designer and media personality for the Capitals had been called in to practice with the on Thursday, as he played Division 3 collegiate hockey with Oswego State and Neumann College.

While Friday rolled on, it became more and more apparent that Leonhardt might have to suit up for that nights game. Hershey Bears goaltender Simeon Varlamov was stuck in San Antonio, Texas and had a devil of a time getting both himself and his equipment to D.C.. South Carolina Stingrays goaltender Michael Neuvirth couldn't get a flight out of Fort Myers, Florida and as game time approached the Capitals were forced to turn to Leonhardt.

Dawning his unmarked stall in the locker room was the cherry red Capitals jersey. Number 80. Leonhardt. A dream come true for any hockey player, regardless the level they competed.

As Leonhardt took to warm ups, the team anxiously awaited the arrival of Varlamov from Texas. He arrived at the 10:57 mark of the first period, putting an end to Leonhardt's brief tenure as the Washington Capitals back-up.

This was not the first time a similar situation has arose in the NHL. In December of 2003, the Vancouver Canucks were set to host the Pittsburgh Penguins when goaltender Dan Cloutier went down with a groin injury.

With the Manitoba Moose on the east coast, it was impossible for Alex Auld to be called up in time for the game.

The Canucks were forced to roll the dice with University of British Columbia back-up Chris Levesque, who almost had to play in the game as Johan Hedberg was shaken up.

While Levesque and Leonhardt never played in their respective games, they both will be able to tell their NHL stories, which will resonate with them for their lives.

"[My teammates] were pumped," Leonhardt said. "(Sergei) Fedorov said: 'This is why I love this organization, this is great.' Mike Green just started laughing his head off then put his arm around me and said 'Let's go.' Even (Johnson) who doesn't talk before games came over, went through warm up with me said 'Hey have fun out there.' It couldn't have been more perfect."

And perfect it was.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Taking it all in stride.

Karl Alzner never could have imagined his NHL debut being quite like this.

Alzner would join a Washington Capitals defensive corps featuring of Tom Poti, Mike Green, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine - or more like replace, as all those aforementioned have been out of the line-up.

This has paved the way for Alzner and his AHL mates to display their skills at the NHL level, which so far has been impressive.

On paper it doesn't take a skeptic to point out the flaws on the Capitals blue line. Having a whopping five AHL players - none of whom have played a lick of NHL hockey - as well as lacking offensive production as Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov are still shelved, would lead many to believe this team is in trouble.

However, quite the opposite has transpired.

The Capitals have been able to remain a respectable .500 club the past 8 games, as they've worked tediously at patching the holes as the number of man games lost continues to climb.

All of which came to a crescendo Tuesday night as the Capitals toppled the Eastern Conference's hottest team, the Boston Bruins, 3-1.

Alzner and company have proven they should not be judged by their pedigree - but more so - by their undiscovered talent.

In fact, Alzner has begun drawing comparison to the great Calle Johansson, as one of the Capitals more stable defenders in recent memory. He, like Johansson, displays a blend of patience, skill, smarts the ability to simplify his game, all of which has shown the veteran savvy that this 20 year old possesses.

Sean Collins, a 25 year old rookie, continued his solid play since being called up last week. He has proven that if necessary, he could handle loads of ice time.

Tyler Sloan has been hit or miss, but can be effective so long as he can minimize mistakes in the defensive zone.

With the return of Tom Poti on Tuesday night and that of Mike Green on the horizon, it seems only fitting to give credit to this rag-tag bunch that managed to keep the team afloat in their absences.

Alzner, Collins, Sloan, Helmer, Lepisto. All have played a large part in this teams success these past few weeks, and there's a good chance that fans will look back on this stretch of games come April and reflect on how valuable playing .500 hockey was.

There's an old saying that adversity doesn't build character, but reveals it. If so, Capitals fans can rest assured that if their team faces another set back - they'll be in good hands.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Green and Poti eyeing a return to Capitals lineup

Finnish defenseman Sami Lepisto has been re-assigned to Hershey today, giving Capitals fans hope that either one of Mike Green or Tom Poti could be returning to the teams line-up for Wednesday nights game with the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins.

Poti has suffered from a nagging groin injury which has sidelined him for eleven games, while Green has not played since November 19th, when he suffered an upper body injury.

The lack of Green has been a hard hit on the Capitals as the Calgary product had put up 16 points (7G, 9A) in 18 games played.

Also thrown into the mix of returnees could be defenseman Tyler Sloan, who took warm-ups yesterday in Raleigh but did not dress for the game.

Lepisto will now return to the Hershey Bears who are in the midst of an eleven game winning streak, despite the amount of players who were recalled by Washington.

Lepisto had been instrumental on Washington's power play, playing the point along with Russian sensation Alexander Ovechkin.

In seven games Lepisto marked 4 assists and was a -3 rating.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fehr injured in Capitals victory

Right wing Eric Fehr left Saturday night's game with what appears to be a shoulder injury. His status is now day-to-day. Fehr's injury now brings the laundry list of wounded Capitals to 11, as the amount of man games lost is soon approaching 300.

Also, Karl Alzner notched his first career NHL goal tonight, while also adding an assist on Milan Jurcina's game winning goal in the third period.

He finished the game with a +2 rating while leading all Washington defensemen in ice time, logging a remarkable 23:06 minutes.

Washington rolls in to Carolina tomorrow and there may be another call up from Hershey coming, most probably one of Chris Bourque, Oskar Osala or Quintin Laing.

Speaking of Hershey, tonight they won their franchise record tenth game in a row, defeating the Hartford Wolfpack 4-2. Goaltender Simeon Varlamov notched his tenth win of the season, stopping 26 of 28 shots.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bruce Boudreau; A holiday gift that all Caps fans can cherish.

Bruce Boudreau made his NHL coaching debut November 23rd, 2007 in a matinee with the Philadelphia Flyers in which Washington left with a 4-3 overtime victory.

It seems as though the employment of Boudreau was an early Christmas gift for the organization and by the looks of it - is a gift that keeps on giving.

Since that fateful day, Capitals fans have been blessed watching their team sky rocket in the standings and are now back on the scene in the NHL.

According to the Nielsen Report, Capitals local television ratings are up 140 percent over 2007's numbers, which represents the biggest jump in the NHL.

A lot of that has to do with the offensive system implemented by the new bench boss, which captures the blend of firepower and finesse that the Capitals possess, a style that speaks to a new generation of hockey fans.

Since the departure of head coach Ron Wilson after the 2001-02 season, the Capitals saw they're record plummet to a somber 119-156-61, which includes a playoff drought that spans back to the 2003-04 season.

Bruce Cassidy and Glen Hanlon both preceded Boudreau, but neither saw much success.

Last year, the Capitals were supposed to turn the page. Hanlon was into his third year, and this team had nowhere to go but up.

Except they didn't. In fact they crashed and burned.

6-14-1 to be exact. And that was after starting the season 3-0-0. Management had finally seen enough and took a chance on a very successful career minor league player and coach to see if he could right the ship.

And right it he did.

The remainder of the season, the Capitals went on a torrent pace going 37-17-7 to clinch their division and a playoff spot on the final game of the regular season.

This year Boudreau is upping his game a notch going 14-9-3 despite lacking offensive talents such as Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov and highly skilled defenseman Mike Green.

In the 2003-04 season, the Capitals blueline was a revolving door which featured names from the past such as Brad Norton, John Gruden, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, Todd Rohloff, Steve Eminger, Rick Berry, Jason Doig and Joel Kwiatkowski - just to name a few.

This year? Try Bryan Helmer, the AHL's leader in games played with over 800. Tyler Sloan, another career minor leauger making his rookie debut. Karl Alzner, a 20 year old rookie who leads all defensemen in ice time since his call up. And most recently Sean Collins, who will be filling in for Sloan in the Capitals next game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 25 year old Collins is just another one of the many blueliners who will get his first sniff of NHL action this year.

But yet this rag-tag bunch manages to get it done.

Yes, there is a method to Bruce's madness. Part of it is strategy, but the other part of it is an unexplainable charisma that his players seem to feed off of. One that stresses the fortune these players actually have to be playing in the NHL, and that they should not take it lightly.

"I'm not used to losing, quite frankly, and I've come to the conclusion that I really don't like it. If I'm fired up I've found out that they follow my lead pretty well and I want them to be fired up."

Bourdeau, unlike his predecessors has proven that he can ice a competitive squad, and regardless the set backs that the team faces, he'll have them ready to play.

And let's not forget that with his chubby stature and glowing cheeks, he strikes a glaring resemblance to jolly old Saint Nick, all the while bringing joy to the hearts of Capitals nation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stefan Della Rovere, Dimitri Kugryshev given camp invites.

Stefan Della Rovere continues to revel in his third OHL season. Today the Barrie Colts forward was named to the Team Canada World Junior Hockey Championship invite list, along with the likes of Jonathan Tavares, Zach Boychuk and Jordan Eberle.

Della Rovere has had a very productive season to date, leading his team in scoring, totaling 27 points in 26 games, while amassing 88 penalty minutes.

Absent from Canada's invite list is Saskatoon Blades goaltender Braden Holby. The Llyodminster, SK product has been among the WHL's best this year, posting a record of 17-6-1 with a .909 SV%.

Last year's CHL Goaltender of the Year, Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans is a front runner for the number one spot with Tyler Sexsmith challenging him.

American born John Carlson (drafted 1st round, 27th overall in 2008 draft) was also omitted from the USA roster, as they tend to favor juniors who play for the NTDP program, which Carlson opted out of to play in the CHL instead.

Carlson though didn't seem to take the omission to heart stating that it was no big deal to be left off the squad.

"If I don't get named, then I'll just go home (to New Jersey) for Christmas. That's fine. We have a big dinner. It's a lot of fun."

Team USA did however decide to extend an invite to defenseman Ted Ruth, who was traded by the Capitals at last years trade deadline for Sergei Fedorov.

Alas, it appears that Della Rovere will the the Capitals lone hope to attend the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships, a tournament which they have well represented in terms of prospects the past four years.

EDIT: Not yet official, but there are reports that Dimitri Kugryshev (drafted 2nd round, 58th overall in 2008 draft) has been selected to play for Russia's World Junior squad and is set to join his teammates in Ottawa on December 18th.

Kugryshev, like Della Rovere is amongst the team leaders in scoring for the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sean Avery stirs the pot.

Most Caps fans are well aware of the situation of this team, and quite frankly, I'm tired of updating the body count.

That's why today's installment deals with the lighter side of sports, as public enemy number one Sean Avery has been suspended indefinitely regarding comments made this morning.

The Dallas Stars forward is being suspended in regards to comments he made directed to Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf and ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert.

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada. I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

Sources close to the Dallas Stars say that if the NHL hadn't suspended Avery, that the Dallas Stars would have, as he has since been sent back to Dallas to face the terms of his punishment.

NHL Notes tonight:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing the Philadelphia Flyers on Versus tonight, dawning their 1974 team jerseys, which should remain locked in the 70's with the Beegee's and John Travolta.

Karl Alzner has returned after missing the third period in Saturday night's game in Columbus.

The Capitals have also recalled Graham Mink for tonight's match versus Florida as the number of man games lost this year creeps up to 250.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roster Shake-Up for tonight's game.

As predicted, Jeff Schultz was placed on LTIR today and Sami Lepisto was called up in his place.

However, there was more juggling that followed as team captain Chris Clark was also placed on LTIR with a forearm injury.

This also allowed the Capitals to call up Karl Alzner, Chris Bourque and Graham Mink.

Tonight's rosters will look like this:




FEAR THE WEAGLE will be shutting down for American Thanksgiving and would like to wish their American readers a safe and joyful holiday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Walking Wounded return to D.C.

Just when things couldn't get much worse for the Capitals in terms of injuries, they did.

Closing out a five game road trip that saw the club go 1-3-1, including losing the last three in a row, Washington suffered their biggest blow last night in Minnesota, losing three more players in a 4-3 loss.

Jeff Schultz, Boyd Gordon and John Erskine all left the game due to injuries. Schultz suffers from the most serious ailment, breaking a finger which will sideline him for 4-6 weeks.

Gordon and Erskine are now both listed as day-to-day, joining fellow teammates Mike Green, Alexander Semin, and Sergei Fedorov.

Both Green and Semin should be ready to return to the line-up for either Wednesday or Friday's games, while Fedorov is still uncertain.

The loss of Schultz is particularly concerning, given the total lack of cap space and healthy defenders. It is rumored that he will be placed on LTIR (Long Term Injury Reserve) where he will join Brian Pothier who is suffering a career threatening concussion.

Being placed on the LTIR would mean that Schultz must remain out of the line-up for both 24 days and 10 games, slating his return for late December.

It is likely that Erskine will play through his soreness as Sami Lepisto is the likely candidate to be called up from Hershey to fill in for Schultz.

The Capitals now return home to face the Atlanta Thrashers in the hopes of breaking a three game regulation losing streak, the longest in Bruce Boudreau's tenure as coach.

More information on the Capitals injury bug can be followed on Tarik El-Bashir's blog, an excellent source for up to date team news.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hershey, PA: A Breeding Group for Future NHL Stars (Part 2)

In today's edition we will take an in-depth look at Hershey rookies that are turning heads early this season.

On the Rise

Francois Bouchard - Center - Drafted 2nd Round, 35th Overall in 2006 Entry Draft

Francois is the younger brother of the Minnesota Wild's Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and it shows as they both play a very similar game.

Francois tore through the QMJHL with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, putting up back to back 100 point seasons in 2005 and 2006. Last season was a bit of a drop off as he only managed 92, but he still lead his team in points.

This season he has made the jump to the AHL and is showing no worse for wear putting up 14 points in 16 games.

Bouchard is considered a shifty play making winger who can also find the net. His future with the Capitals is still atleast a full year away, but his ability to produce at every level he has played have the Capitals high on Bouchard's future.

Oskar Osala - Left wing - Drafted 4th Round, 97th Overall in 2006 Entry Draft

Continuing with the theme of 2006 draftees, Oskar Osala is a breath of fresh air in the Capitals orginization. Selected out of Missisauga of the OHL, the rugged Finn brings a blend of grit and a set of gifted hands.

Washington has very little on the radar in terms of a power forward, and they are hoping that Osala can fill that role, while still contributing to the score sheet on a consistent basis.

After his junior career had been completed, he jetted back to Finland where he played a season with the Espoo Blues, where he earned rookie of the year honors as he was among his team leaders in points scored.

This year he has returned to North America and since joining the Hershey Bears has set the AHL ablaze, leading his team in goals with 13, and being nominated as AHL Player of the Week for the week ending November 2, 2008.

With any luck, Capitals fans could see Osala "rocking the red" as early as next season, though with the teams financial leverage being tight, it could take a little longer.

Matthieu Perreault - Center - Drafted 6th Round, 177th Overall in 2006 Entry Draft

The story of Matthieu Perreault's journey at the 2006 draft is one that not many players share. Matthieu made the cross country trip to Vancouver where he sat agonizing for 2 full days on whether or not he would be selected. Finally with their last selection in the draft, the Washington Capitals approached Perreault and informed him that they would be selecting him 177th overall.

Needless to say he has returned the favor tenfold and is another of Washington's many prospects who will be pushing for a roster spot in the near future.

Perreault, like Bouchard, played his junior hockey in the QMJHL, where he also put up two consecutive 100 point seasons with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

He is listed at 5'9", but in fact, is probably a tad smaller, which some consider to be a knock against him. However, he is proving that making the jump to professional hockey is not as difficult as the pundits predicted it would be for a player his size.

Perreault has assumed the role of set up man, playing a very Adam Oates-esque style of game, while ranking third on the Bears leaders in assists.

His speed isn't quite at the caliber of Chris Bourque's but he comes a close second, which is very adventageous for his style of play.

In the past he has had great success centering a line with Francois Bouchard, and with Oskar Osala on his left wing, you could potentially see this line assemble in D.C. in the next coming years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hershey, PA: A Breeding Group for Future NHL Stars

After sweeping through their weekend schedule, I felt it was due time to take a look at the state of affairs with the Hershey Bears.

So far this season they have left nothing to the imagination of fans, racing out of the gates to a 12-5-0-1 record, while blowing out their opponents in the process.

Case in point: Saturday November 14th, 2008 and Sunday November 15th, 2008. The Bears took on the Philadelphia Phantoms and the Binghampton Senators and beat them soundly; 7-4 and 9-0 respectively.

This is nothing out of the ordinary, as they have already beaten Wilkes-Barre 8-4 on Opening Night, as well as a 7-1 drubbing of the Syracuse Crunch.

Needless to say, the offense has been tantalizing to date, and indicates the bright future ahead for the Washington Capitals.

On the Cusp

Karl Alzner - Defense - Drafted 1st Round, 5th Overall in 2007 Entry Draft

Alzner has exceeded the monumental expectations bestowed upon him rather effortlessly. Playing for the most part with Sami Lepisto (as well as Josh Godfrey), Alzner has been a staple on Hershey's blue line, and is tied for first in rookie +/- (fourth in the entire AHL) with fellow teammate Oskar Osala. Though he will never be leaned upon to produce the numbers of an offensive defenseman, he is still able to find the score sheet (8 points in 16 games) as well as log quality powerplay time. It appears that it is only a matter of time before this budding prospect gets his crack at the NHL.

Chris Bourque - Left wing - Drafted 2nd Round, 33rd Overall in 2004 Entry Draft

Since arriving at Capitals training camp in September, the former Boston College product has been a man on a mission. Despite his lack of size, Bourque is following up a record year stats wise with one that's been equally impressive to date. A late cut from Capitals camp, Bourque clearly has dazzling offensive talent and when put to use, he ranks amongst the Elite in the AHL. If he is able to increase his statistics, he will have a legitimate chance to make Washington's roster next season.

Sami Lepisto - Defense - Drafted 3rd Round, 66th Overall in 2004 Entry Draft

It took Sami a little longer than expected to make the trek to the North American rinks. A major shoulder surgery set him back half of a season with Jokerit in 2005-06, but he showed no ill-effects the following season, as he finished the year with the most points of any Bears defenseman. His defensive partner Josef Boumedienne has since left the organization, now playing with the Toronto Marlies, forcing Lepisto through a transition period. After a sluggish start, he is now starting to find his stride and is returning to the form he showed last year. With the lack of depth on the Capitals blue line this season, there is a chance they could make a trade to involve both Lepisto and Alzner in their immediate plans.

*Sunday's installment of THE WEAGLE will focus on the abundance of rookies whom are on the rise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

OBS: A Recipe for Success

OBS. If you were to describe the acronym, words like dazzling, sensational or maybe just sick.

Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin.

Last year it was known as the OBK Line (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov) which was leaned on heavily for offensive production in the second half of the season, and were large in part the reason that the Capitals won the Southeast Division.

However early on in the season, OBK was not generating the success that it saw last year. Ovechkin was off to a slow start, as was Kozlov. As for Backstrom, there were extended periods where you were unsure if he was still in the line-up.

Merely a few weeks ago, Kozlov went down with an injury, Ovechkin was returning from a trip to Moscow and Backstrom was demoted to third line duties. When very little seemed to be working offensively, coach Bruce Boudreau decided it was time to put all his eggs in one basket.

Before Sergei Fedorov went down with an injury, he was given the duty of centering the first line. But with him out of the line-up, Backstrom was given a chance at some redemption.

So far the decision has been paying huge dividends, and is making Boudreau look like a genius.

Alexander Semin has been a monster this season. With 13 goals and 14 assists (27 points) in only 15 games this season, is well on his way to surpass his 43 point season last year. He has been leaned on almost exclusively to fashion points for the Capitals as they found ways to win tough games. Since being united with Backstrom and Ovechkin 4 games ago, he has 5 goals and 5 assists.

Semin, however is not the only one benefiting from the new line combos.

Alexander Ovechkin is back with a vengeance. He has scored goals in back to back games, and seems to be getting back on track with his offensive production, marking 2 goals and 6 assists with his new line mates.

Most impressive however has been Backstrom who has been stagnant early on this season. Being moved to the third line seemed to have lit a fire under him as he has put up 1 goal and 5 assists in his last 3 games, most notably a four point showing at Carolina on Tuesday.

It seems that the Capitals are an entirely different team with the newly assembled OBS Line, and Washington has been putting together complete performances from top to bottom, something which has been lacking to this point.

Tonight the potent OBS Line will take on the Martin Broduer-less New Jersey Devils, which has the Capitals fan base eager to get this one started.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making the Most of your Opportunites

Since the 2002-03 campaign, Brent Johnson has never started more than 35 games in a year. The past 5 NHL seasons, Johnson has been a career back-up, as well as a journey man, making brief stops in Phoenix and Vancouver before being claimed off waivers by Washington in October 2004.

A gamble that paid off for the Capitals, as former "sure bet" prospect Maxime Ouellet never paned out and now finds himself playing in a Senior A League in Quebec.

But ever since his inception to the NHL ranks with the St. Louis Blues, Johnson has always been pushed by competition in the pipes. Whether it was Roman Turek, Fred Brathwaite or Chris Osgood, Johnson was never able to take the reigns as a legitimate number one starter. In his time in The Gateway City, he never received more than 58 starts in a year, but also never registered a GAA of over 2.50.

Johnson was finally moved the year before the lockout as the Blues continued trying to straighten out their goalie carousel. When he finally landed in Washington, he came to a team in the early stages of a rebuilding process [his stats show how grueling the rebuild was] and at this point was looked at as no more than a career back-up.

Finally this season, Brent Johnson is getting the chance to fuel a competition for the starting job.

Jose Theodore was signed by the Capitals this summer and has failed to meet expectations up to date. His .885 SV% has been less than adequate and his 2-3-0 record is not what Washington is looking for coming out of the gates.

In an attempt to inspire his team, coach Bruce Boudreau called on the 31 year old Johnson to start a handful of games, and Johnson accepted the role and hasn't look back.

To date he has registered a 4-1-2 record, his only regulation loss coming in the Capitals season opener where he came in relief of Jose Theodore.

His scintillating .931 SV% is ranked 3rd in the league as he ranks 5th with a GAA of 2.11.

It might be early yet, but it certainly seems that Johnson still has all the tools to become a number one goaltender, and that he is finally being given the chance to put them all together.

"I think its confidence," Boudreau said of Johnson. "He's in the last year of his deal. He loves the area. He loves being a Capital. He knows he's got a great chance and a great opportunity. A new guy has come in, and granted, he's probably going to be the No. 1 guy when it's all said and done. But it's not like Olie, where you knew he was always going to be the guy. So Johnson kind of has that spring in his step." "I want to get Jose back in there, but it's tough to take [Johnson] out when he's playing that well," he added.

While there is little certainty at this point, it appears this will be an interesting season in the crease.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Same Faces in Different Places: Kolzig returns to D.C.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are only a Brian Willsie away from assembling the Washington Capitals of 2005-06.

Going back to last years trade deadline, the Lightning have acquired Jeff Halpern, Matt Pettinger, Jamie Heward, and Steve Eminger; all via trade or free agency.

Of these players, only recently acquired Steve Eminger will be in the line-up when both these Southeast Division foes meet on Monday night. However, there is one other familiar face who will make his way back to D.C., and the media attention surrounding his return will be bigger than the game itself.

Never in their wildest dreams would Washington Capitals fans expect to see their franchise goalie over the past 16 years suit up for the opposition, but in tonight's contest, Olaf Kolzig will do just that.

Drafted 19th overall in the 1989 draft, Kolzig enjoyed a fruitful career as the Capitals tender winning a Vezina award along with a trip to the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals. But the relationship between Washington and Kolzig went sour last season as Washington decided their rebuild was completed and his services were no longer needed. They went out and traded for Cristobal Huet.

Kolzig spent the remainder of the season as the teams back-up goalie, and after their Game 7 playoff loss to Philadelphia, it was widely believed that he would then retire.

When July 1st, 2008 rolled around it was quite a shock for many to see Godzilla trade in his red white and blue for the black and blue of Tampa Bay.

Most Capitals fans said "good riddance" to Kolzig and some went as far as losing respect for his decision to continue his playing career.

Some chose to forget the five 30+ win seasons in a Capitals uniform, others chose to forget the 38 shutouts as a member of the franchise.

And yes, some went as far as forgetting his total dedication to a team going through a rough rebuilding process, as he stuck with the organization as opposed to signing with a playoff bound team in search of his first elusive Stanley Cup Championship.

Not to mention his unwavering devotion to the city of Washington and the many charitable foundations he belongs to.

The truth of the matter is that the Washington Capitals quit on Olaf Kolzig long before Kolzig quit on them
. And that is a true test of his character as he always found a way to remain a "team first" player.

In this day and age of the NHL, neither Kolzig nor the Capitals are to blame for the fallout that transpired last season. It was simply a case of two sides having two differing expectations of Olaf's role within the organization, and neither side should be chastised for the decisions they made.

There is a very good chance that Kolzig will never win the Stanley Cup he has longed for his entire career, as his new gig in Tampa puts him into the role of mentor as the Lightning try to hone Mike Smith into a serviceable NHL starter.

Kolzig could have easily rode off into the sunset as a Washington Capital and he would have been enshrined as the greatest goaltender in the teams history. No one else can hold a candle to Kolzig's tenure, and he holds many team records that will most likely never be broken. But instead of hanging them up, he believed that he still had something to give to the NHL, comparable to all that he gave to Capitals fans over 16 seasons of service.

Tonight night isn't about the Tampa Bay Lightning visiting the Verizon Center to take on the Capitals. It's a story of perseverance and the love of the game making it's way back to the nations capital.

Tonight it is Olaf Kolzig versus the Washington Capitals.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tomas Fleischmann : Winner of Inaugural FEAR THE WEAGLE Poll

In a close race, Tomas Fleischmann edged out Karl Alzner for which Washington Capital you think will have the biggest impact this year.

Here is how the polls closed:

Tomas Fleischmann - 38% (13 votes)
Karl Alzner - 35% (12 votes)
Chris Bourque - 14% (5 votes)
Eric Fehr - 8% (3 votes)
Sami Lepisto - 2% (1 vote)

A new poll will be up soon, keep checking in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alexander Ovechkin: Image of the Invisible

Since his 2005-06 rookie campaign, no one in the NHL has scored more goals than Alexander Ovechkin. The only player who comes close to the Russian superstar is Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators, and there is still a gap between the two.

The fact of the matter is that each year Ovechkin has set his sights on a higher goal and a new standard for himself. Last season he broke Luc Robitaille's record for goals in a season, finishing with 65, which eclipsed the previous mark of 63 set by the long time King. Those 65 goals also won him the Maurice Richard Trophy.

Alex has proven that neither the hype, nor the pressure the pressure, or even the opponent can stand in his way as he has been a one man wrecking crew for as long as he has been a Capital.

That's why his start to this season has been so disappointing.

Ovechkin has played in nine games so far this year, putting up a modest five points (2G, 3A). His two markers came in the same game versus the Blackhawks in the second game of the year.

The team has sputtered out of the gates, and the lack of production from number eight is largely the reason for their 5-4-2 mark.

Lets be honest, Nicklas Backstrom, Chris Clark and Viktor Kozlov haven't been the best line mates this year, however that's never stopped Alexander in the past. Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpren are still thanking him for the payouts they received in the free agent market due to their inflated point production with Ovechkin.

There is no reason why he shouldn't be able to succeed despite those around him, yet he is. He's shooting less. He's driving the net less. Sometimes you can go a few shifts without noticing him at all.

Nevertheless, the season is still young and Ovechkin does have a history of slower starts, and you also have to factor in that he spent a week in Moscow, Russia with his ailing grandfather.

His play may be lacking but his dedication should never be questioned. He has always played through adversity and has always played for his teammates above himself.

In his recent trip to Russia, he slept during the day and stayed up during the night so to not become jet lagged. That speaks volume for not only his character but also his love of the game.

Alexander Ovechkin is no Kevin Bacon in the sense that you'll never go a hour and a half without seeing him at all (see 90% of Bacon's terrible films, or Hollow Man). He will hit the score sheet more frequently as this season goes on and the Caps will benefit from it as he is still heavily depended on despite the insurgence of his counterpart Alexander Semin.

He will get the job done. It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Make Sure to Vote!

That's right Caps' fans, time is running out.

Make sure to vote on which player will have the biggest impact for the Capitals this year, as the poll is closing in only TWO days.

Make sure your voice is heard.

Also, residents of the United States of America, please take the time to do your part for your country by voting in your Presidential Election!

Pre-Game Thoughts: 11/04/08 Washington Capitals at Ottawa Senators

The month of October has not been as kind to the Washington Capitals as their fans had hoped. Granted, they are 5-4-1 and are still above the .500 mark, the bar coming into this season was set at a rather lofty level, which as previously mentioned, has yet to be achieved.

I have previously stated the the Capitals are a slow starting team and this season bears no exception. It will be important to rack up points early in November before heading on a west coast road trip which has the team visiting Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose in a three night stretch.

Not to mention the hot start from the Carolina Hurricanes who seem to be able to plug anyone into their battered line up and still consistently win games. It will be important for Washington not to fall too far behind early as it a repeat of last years heroics would be fairly unlikely.

Lets take a look at some of the positives for Washington. Tonight, star forward Alexander Ovechkin will be back in the line up after heading back to Moscow for a week to visit his sick grandfather. Contrary to reports posted on, Ovechkin's grandfather is still alive in hospital, and Alex was glad to have been given the opportunity to see him.

"My mind was already back in Moscow," he said. "I called George [McPhee] and said, 'George I need to go back to Russia and see my grandpa because I don't know when he is going to die. Thanks to the Capitals. They said go there and be with your family. It helped me a lot."

Ovechkin's presence has been missed in the line-up and hopefully he is able to return rejuvinated and into mid-season form as the Capitals will try to turn up the heat and prove they were not just a one year wonder.

Also of note is the demeanor of Coach Bruce Boudreau, who I felt had let his players away with a lot so far. A shutout at the hands of the Sabres on Saturday changed his complex as he skated his players into the ice on Sunday and stated there will be no free rides this season. Perhaps this tough love is what players like Mike Green, Chris Clark, Shaone Morrisonn, Nicklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore need to kick start their game.

The Senators, too, are having a rocky start to the year with a 4-5-2 record so far. Alex Auld will be their starting goaltender and he possesses a 3-2-0 record with a .931 SV% this year.

The Caps will need to be able to capitalize on the power play and prove that they can play a full 60 minutes worth of hockey if they intend to win this game. So far they have taken untimely penalties which have cost them goals against.

It is clear that the Caps will have to make their own break as November's schedule is not kind. They cannot afford to repeat last years mishaps.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Boudreau Sounds Off

In today's blog on the Capital Insider, Bruce Boudreau was not a happy man, probably as disgruntled as he has been in his coaching stint with the Capitals. Washington players were skated up and down the ice for the full 50 minutes of practice following their 5-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres the previous night. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

"If they're not going to work to our standards during the game, then they're going to work that hard during practice," he said. "I've been through a lot of those, and they're not fun. I'm trying to send a message that the coaching staff was displeased with the effort."

"We didn't compete. I'm not used to it. Here we had a chance. We see everyone else in our division losing."

"It's the first time where we went end-to-end for 50 minutes, nonstop. I don't want to use the word punishment. Everyone would have loved to have had Sunday off and relax and enjoy themselves. But this isn't a country club. If you come to work you're going to get rewarded. If you don't come to work then you will pay the price."

Hopefully Washington is able to turn their game around in time for Tuesday nights game against the Ottawa Senators.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 11/01/08 Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres

It seems as though the Capitals have been able to shake off the rust of their 1-2-0 road trip as they had a strong performance in a 4-3 shootout win versus the Nashville Predators on Tuesday evening.

The score didn't properly indicate of the Capitals play, who heavily out shot their opponents 26-11 through two periods. Dan Ellis was the reason that the Capitals didn't cake walk their way to their 5th victory of the season as he made key saves early to keep his team within reach.

Tonight they will take on the high flying Buffalo Sabres, a team that Capitals fans have grown accustomed to hating lately. The Sabres have started out the season an impressive 6-2-2 and goaltender Ryan Miller ranks fourth in the league for GAA with a 2.02 average.

For Washington, they will have to go another game without Alexander Ovechkin who is still in Russia visiting his grandfather. However, they will get a much needed presence back on the blue line as Tom Poti will return from nursing a slight groin injury tonight. That means Tyler Sloan has been sent back to Hershey.

Not much else really going on with the Capitals as they've been off since Tuesday.

Here is an interesting little piece from TSN where Alexander Semin sounds off about Sidney Crosby.

Coming into November 1st 2007, the Washington Capitals were 5-6-0, and soon found themselves 6-14-1. Hopefully they will be able to start off November on the right foot with a win in Buffalo.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/28/08 Washington Capitals vs Nashville Predators

No big write up for this game, just small tidbits. The Capitals are coming of a 1-2-0 road trip, their win coming in a 6-5 offensive clinic with the Dallas Stars. They now return home to face the Predators Tuesday, and then having four days off before their next game against Buffalo Saturday.

This game will not be televised as Versus has the feed, and are instead airing the Philadelphia at Atlanta game.

Alexander Ovechkin will be out of Washington's line-up until Sunday as he has returned to Moscow to be with his ailing grandfather.

Caps fans thoughts and prayers go out to the Ovechkin family.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/25/08 Washington Capitals at Dallas Stars

If there is a team that parallels the Washington Capitals early into this 2008-09 season, it would be the Dallas Stars. Both teams are entering this season with tremendous expectations on their shoulders, many of them involving hosting the Stanley Cup come June.

But if the first seven games of this season have shown us anything, it's that both these teams have failed to deliver on the pre-season hype.

This may be taken as an overstatement, and understandably so, considering the season is not even 1/10th completed, but with the buzz around these teams, their records thus far do not sit well with fans.

Lets also keep in mind that both teams are missing star players at key positions. Both Tom Poti (Capitals) and Sergei Zubov (Stars) are veteran leaders on their respective blue lines, and command crucial ice time in their teams pursuits of victory. Furthermore, both pivots are injured, Poti nursing a sore groin and Zubov out with a hip injury which has him sidelined until at least sometime into November.

If that wasn't enough add Viktor Kozlov, John Erskine and Donald Brashear to the list of Caps injuries, while noting the Stars are without the services of Steve Ott, Jere Lethinen and Doug Janik.

Suffice to say, both teams have gotten out to a sluggish start largely due to the holes in their line-up as they fail to ice a complete team.

Stars goaltender Marty Turco has not been able to get on track so far this year and limps in with a 3-4-1 record along with the third worst GAA (4.04) in the league. The only starter worse than him statistically is Martin Biron (4.50 GAA), who the Caps could not solve often enough last spring.

For Washington, their starting goalie has yet to be confirmed, but with back-to-back solid performances, I would give the nod to Jose Theodore. Theodore, like Turco, started off the season a tad bit rusty but is now beginning to regain his form from last year. Hopefully tonight the Capitals will be able to play well enough for him to earn his third win of the year.

Washington's song and dance this year has been the lack of consistency. Alexander Ovechkin has marked a quiet 4 points (2G, 2A) so far this year, and Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom has a measly two points (2A) this year, which puts him way off the pace of another 69 point campaign.

But also bare in mind that the Washington Capitals are historically a slow starting team, no matter what their expectations. Last year they were a feeble 6-14-1 before righting their ship en route to the Southeast Division Championship. Moreover, both Ovechkin and Backstrom had particularly slow starts to the year in 2007-08 as well, only to kick it in to high gear come the month of September, while Alexander Semin (6G, 5A and team leading scorer) was in and out of the line-up with an injured ankle.

Right now it's simply a case of players feeling sorry for themselves and squeezing the sticks too tightly. In their 2-1 loss to Phoenix on Thursday, the Capitals registered 31 shots on Michael Tellqvist in a losing effort. Most nights, 31 shots is good enough for three goals let alone one, but things will smooth themselves over in time.

If you are a fan of the Capitals, you have to believe that at some point, this team with gel and return to the form that dazzled fans last year. The key will be not to rehash last years struggles by repeating a 6-14-1 record through the first quarter of the season. As long as they are able to sit around .500, they will be in fine shape.

Hopefully, Boudreau can succeed where Hanlon failed.

In Bruce we trust.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Winnipeg Jets: A Time Capsule of my Youth.

It was almost two months shy of my 10th birthday when the Winnipeg Jets skated off the ice at the Winnipeg Arena for the last time.

The Jets had just lost a best of seven series 4 games to 2 against the vaunted Detroit Red Wings a team on the up rise and loaded with NHL stars.

I remember the empty feeling of dispair, which was magnified due to my age. This was the end of the NHL for me.

Since then I have been able to move on and am fortunate that I stuck it out with a league that turned its back on me. I can honestly say that I don't know where I would be without hockey in my life.

While watching tonight's game between the Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes, I can't help but look back to my youth and the role that this team - 13 years removed from my hometown - had on me.

I came from a typical middle class family, living with both my parents and two younger sisters. Being the only male child gave me many perks, one of which was attending sporting events with my dad. We didn't get to see them often, but just enough to fuel my obsession with the NHL, and more importantly with Teemu Selanne; my idol growing up.

Most opposing players that have come through Winnipeg are lost on me, as are many of the teams. I know that I have seen the Red Wings, Flyers, Islanders, Stars and Whalers for certain, but after that it's hazy.

What I do remember was the atmosphere. The roar of a Winnipeg crowd is a distinct one, a cheer that I could differentiate from any other. The fans were passionate for their team, and the players enjoyed our raucous nature.

The Winnipeg Arena, built in the 1950's was usually full, which is an impressive feat considering some of the pitiful rosters this team assembled. Year after year, Winnipeg made sure to go off the board with their first round selections, drafting the likes of Jimmy Mann and Sergei Bautin, while passing up the Martin Brodeur's and Jaromir Jagr's of the league. In the pre-salary cap era, the Jets didn't have much money to spend, and proved this by rarely making a splash on upcoming unrestricted free agents.

Alas, the NHL finally reached their breaking point, and the team was forced to relocate in the spring of 1996. I dabbled in the teams fortunes in the early years after the teams move, but after much of the 95-96 Jets roster moved on with their careers, so did I. My last surviving tie to the Jets lies with 32 year old Shane Doan, drafted 4th overall in the 1995 entry draft out of Kamloops of the WHL.

Winnipeg will most probably never have the luxury of an NHL franchise returning to our turf, to try rebuilding the shattered dreams of a city that never really recovered from their loss.

But while watching tonights game at Arena, the Coyotes in their brick coloured jerseys, this hockey fan can't help but relive some of his most cherrished childhood memories.

Watching a hockey game with my father.

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/23/08 Washington Capitals at Phoenix Coyotes

Jose Theodore could not have played much better in a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

Theodore stopped 26 of a possible 28 shots in a losing effort, as the Capitals fell to 3-2-1 on the season.

Tyler Sloan also played a gritty 9 minutes in the loss, laying the hit of the year (to date) on an unsuspecting Daymond Langkow midway through the first period. The hit ended up granting the Capitals a 9 minute power play as Rene Bourque racked up an astounding 19 minutes in penalties in trying to atone for his teammate.

Both will remain in the line-up for the Capitals Thursday night game in the desert against an up and coming Coyotes team.

After watching his power play go 0-4 on the power play, including a lack luster effort on a nine (yes NINE) minute power play, Coach Bruce Boudreau is stressing his players to get traffic in front of the opposing goalie to generate scoring chances on the man advantage. This will come as a relief, as those who follow the Caps feel they have been much too cute in trying to concoct masterful tic-tac-toe plays rather than just putting the puck on net. The Capitals rank 16th (5-32) in the league so far on the power play, which is somewhat of a disappointment considering the talent they bolster.

For the Coyotes, they will send Michael Tellqvist to oppose the Capitals. Tellqvist was a modest 9-8-2 last year with a 3.07 GAA.

Phoenix sits 25th overall in goals per game, averaging at only 2.43.
They are also 23rd in goals allowed per game at 3.40, which marks almost a full goal difference per game. The Coyotes have relied on the mentality of scoring by committee as Shane Doan, Olli Jokinen and Kyle Turris are their team leaders in points.

Washington will have to come out stronger than they did on Tuesday night, and also show more discipline as they took 10 penalties throughout their game with the Flames, including four 5 on 3 opportunities.

The last time that Alexander Ovechkin was in Phoenix was in his Calder Cup year (05-06) when he scored only what can be referred to as "the goal". We will see if Ovechkin can duplicate this feat in tonight's match as he desperately seeks to get his season on track.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Michael Neuvirth headed to the Czech Republic

As reported by Mike Vogel, goaltender Michael Neuvirth will be going to play with Trinec in the Czech League.

More information will be provided as it comes in.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/21/08 Washington Capitals at Calgary Flames

For 27 year old defenseman Tyler Sloan, Hollywood itself could not have delivered a better script. The rugged Calgary, Alberta native has been a career journeyman through the ECHL and AHL ranks, not yet having a chance to suit up for NHL action, excluding preseason.

Until tonight

And what better way for Sloan to get his first crack at the bigs than in his home town in front of his family and friends.
"I didn't think it was going to be this soon, but I'm ecstatic," Sloan said of the call-up. "I'm going to Calgary, my hometown, you can't ask for any more than that."

Sloan will indeed have his work cut out for him, joining a depleted defensive corps who is without the veteran leadership of Tom Poti. Poti is sidelined with a groin injury and will not suit up for tonight's game. This will give Sloan an opportunity to see ice-time both at even strength, and most probably on the penalty kill as well.

Sloan will not be the only home town boy in a Capitals uniform tonight fellow defensemen Mike Green and Jeff Schultz also hail from The Stampede City.

Washington will be taking on a Calgary Flames club that hasn't quite lived up to their standards so far this season. A team that prides itself on defense has yet to find a way to put it all together, sputtering out to a 1-3-1 start to their year.

However the off-season acquisitions of Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Cammalleri seem to be paying off as they are both producing at a point per game status.

It will be important for the Capitals to perform as they did against Vancouver, in regards to using their offense as their best form of defense. In that game they held the Canucks to only 10 shots on goal, and coasting to an easy 5-1 win. Given the injures to not only Poti, but Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear, Washington will have to use their strong fore check and team play to cover for their lack of man power.

So far this season, Jose Theodore has paralleled A Tale of Two Cities, a Charles Dickens classic to many a Caps fan. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That has essentially summed it up for the French Canadian net minder who has shown flashes of brilliance, but also hasn't erased the memories of the last three seasons of the Olaf Kolzig era (1995-2008). His play has been indicative of his confidence, which seems to fluctuate as the game progresses. It will be interesting to see if he can put in his first well rounded performance of the season tonight.

For the Flames, word is that Curtis McElhinney may get the start tonight, but that has yet to be confirmed nor denied, so for the time being we will assume it will be Mikka Kiprusoff in the pipes.

Here's hoping Tyler Sloan writes himself into the record books in a very special way.

Washignton Capitals Quick Hits 10/20/08

A couple quick hits before tonight's pre-game thoughts:

Tyler Sloan has been recalled by the Washington Capitals. Coach Bruce Boudreau plans on playing Sloan in tomorrow nights game in Calgary. Washington's line combos in practice today were as follows:



Sloan, a native of Calgary, Alberta will suit up in his first ever NHL match, so it will be a great career milestone for the 27 year old defenseman. He played a handful of preseason games with the Caps back in September

Tom Poti will make the trip out west with the rest of his teammates, but will not play Tuesday as he is still nursing a sore groin.

The Hershey Bears recalled goaltender Michael Neuvirth, though he is not expected to play. It appears that he will in fact be loaned out to another AHL squad after all. Simeon Varlamov is also nursing a slight injury but should be fine.

Finally, the Washington Capitals signed goaltending prospect Braden Holtby today. From Tarik's blog:

"The Caps have signed goaltender Braden Holtby to a three-year entry level contract.

The 19-year-old fourth round draft pick (2008) is 6-3-0 this season for the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. He's also got a 2.23 goals against average and a .922 save percentage."

Pre-game thoughts on tomorrows game in Calgary will be loaded later tonight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/18/08 Washington Capitals vs New Jersey Devils

Usually when Alexander Ovechkin is in a slump, so are the Washington Capitals. For the most part, it seems to go hand in hand.

However the 2008-09 season has been quite distinct early on, as the Capitals have established the fact that this is not the same team from a year ago. Sure, most of the players you see out there were a part of the 2007-08 Southeast Championship team, but this is a different Capitals squad. They have a different swagger, a charisma that has aided them in all four games this year. In three of said games, they have trailed by atleast two goals, only to come back and make a game of it. They are 2 of 3 in those games.

Tonight they are taking on the same 3-1-0 New Jersey Devils. So far this year, the Devils have had trouble putting up points, as their leading scorer is Zach Parise with three points (2G, 1A) in four games.

In comparison, Washingtons leading scorer is Alexander Semin who has eight points (4G, 4A) in four games.

Brian Rolston, New Jersey's prime off-season acquistion will be out of tonight's game, so they will be even more pressed to score.

On the flip side, the Capitals will be lacking defenseman Tom Poti, who has been a staple on their blueline. John Erskine will dress again tonight and Sergei Fedorov will play on defense as well. Chris Bourque has been called up from Hershey for the game as well.

If the Capitals are able to jump out to an early lead on goaltender Martin Brodeur they should be able to cruise to their fourth win of the year.

Update: Washington assigned goaltender Michael Neuvirth to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. It was speculated that he might be loaned to another AHL squad, but it appears that never materialized. More information will follow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Caps scratch past Pens as injuries mount

Even the great Harry Houdini wouldn't have found his way out of the mess the Washington Capitals found themselves in last night.

Washington, who was in Pittsburgh to face the rivaled Pens, fell flat on their face early on as Pittsburgh took a commanding 3-0 lead early in the second period. Adam Gologoski, Evgeny Malkin and Petr Sykora all scored on the power play for the Pens who looked as though they were going to continue their domination of the series.

The Caps, however, had different ideas and stormed back to score four unanswered goals by Fleischmann, Semin, Nylander and Gordon. Jose Theodore had another rough start but finished strong stopping 23 shots in the 4-3 final.

Washington's penalty kill was "off" to say the least last night with only a 50% succession rate (3-6). So far this year they are 17-24 (70.8%) which puts them 25th in the league. They will have to be more successful on specialty teams in order to live up to their projections this season.

Adding to the bad news, the Capials lost defenseman Tom Poti early in the first period with what is being diagnosed as a groin injury. It is unclear how long he will be out of the line-up.

Poti now joins the likes of Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear who are also out with injuries. Brashear's status for tomorrow night in New Jersey has yet to be determined, while Kozlov is diagnosed as "week-to-week".

Washington called up winger Chris Bourque earlier today, meaning that Sergei Fedorov will be playing defense for their next match-up, while Bourque will fill in for Fedorov up front.

Brent Johnson will get the start in Saturday's game as coach Bruce Boudreau continues to flip between his two netminders.

So far the Capitals have looked the the cat with nine lives. Just when you think they can't possibly come back, the do; in stunning fashion. The question now becomes how long until they run out of magic in their bag of tricks?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/16/08 Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins

Game by game. Period by period. Shift by shift. The Washington Capitals have progressively improved their play all year.

Granted, we are only three games in, but if Monday nights victory is any indication of what lies ahead, the Capitals are in good hands.

The team was firing on all cylinders against Vancouver, allowing only 10 shots against all game. Tonight they will take on an old foe in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby versus Ovechkin. Or if you prefer, Ovechkin versus Malkin.

Both teams feature an arsenal of stars, which provided fantastic games between the two last year. Let's hope this is case tonight.

Pittsburgh won last years season series 3-1, while three of the four games were separated by only one goal.

Pens defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are nursing long term injuries, which should mean that Ovechkin will see a frequent dosage of Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh's most sound defenseman. This should bode well for the second line of Semin, Nylander and Laich who should be able to capitalize on the lack of healthy defensemen.

For Pittsburgh it will be important for their superstars to get on the score sheet. They gutted out a 3-2 win against Philadelphia on Tuesday, without Crosby or Malkin registering a point.

However, the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury has been superb and is to thank for the teams early season success.

Washington will counter with Jose Theodore in net. Theodore sat in place of Brent Johnson on Monday, who notched his 100th win in the process. Theodore is 1-0-0 on the season with a 4.00 GAA and .842 SV%.

Capitals fowards Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear will be out of tonight's contest, due to injuries. Kozlov's status is week-to-week with an undisclosed injury, while Brashear is healing an injured hand.

Washington has not had very much success against Pittsburgh lately, and tonight will serve as the first test of the year. A chance to turn the tables on this bitter Patrick Division match-up.

A chance at redemption in this series.