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 Jobing.com 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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Puck Stops Here: Caps beat Luongo and Canucks 5-1.

Roberto Luongo loved playing the Washington Capitals. After winning eleven straight against the Caps, he had good reason to.

However, last night was not as planned for the outstanding net-minder as Washington hung five goals in two periods on their way to a 5-1 win. Luongo was pulled in favor of Curtis Sanford for the remainder of the game.

Alexander Semin continues to build on his rampant start to the season, scoring twice more in last nights win. He now sits third overall in NHL scoring with three goals and three assists for six points (3G, 3A), trailing Ranger forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros.

The Capitals were able to limit Vancouver to only 10 shots on goal (though Bruce Boudreau felt it to be more like 15), which set a new team record which was previously 11 shots.

Another player who had a good game was center Michael Nylander who had a four point night (1G, 3A), including a penalty shot goal after Willie Mitchell shot an errand stick to prohibit a pass on the power play. Credit to WeRocktheRed for the nice shot!

Brent Johnson recorded his 100th career win last night, and Bodureau has yet to divulge who will get the start in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Sergei Fedorov showed Caps fans and management that he can be relied upon to play defense, with another good showing on the point; the first being during the preseason. Last night the 38 year old Selke Winner tallied an assist and was a +3 rating to finish the game.

Fedorov's position for Thursday's match-up is still undetermined
was back at center position in practice today. However, Corey Masiak of the Washington Times reports that it was due in large part to the lack of fowards in practice today as Alexander Semin, Donald Brashear and Viktor Kozlov did not skate today.

"No real updates on Sergei Fedorov's position for Thursday night. He practiced at forward today, but Boudreau said it was because they were short up front. Fedorov seemed OK with playing either position, which has been his stance all along."

Other notes:

-Viktor Kozlov will be out a couple of weeks with an undisclosed injury suffered in last nights game.

-Capitals General Manager George McPhee stated today that they are close to loaning out one of Simeon Varlamov or Michael Neuvirth to another AHL team. More news will most likely be made available tomorrow.

To read up on either or both of these notes, you can check out Tarik's blog for more information.

Tomorrow will be an off day at The Weagle as we'll be working on some articles on Capitals Prospects for this weekend.

Our next write-up will preview Thursday's contest in Pittsburgh.

Here is a video of the Washington Capitals 2007-08 Southeast Championship Banner run posted by the Washington Capitals YouTube Crew.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Remembering Alexei Cherepanov

Here is a video posted by KoVy71 on YouTube of some of Cherepanov's career highlights, as well as an excerpt from New York Rangers General Manager Glen Sather's press conference today:

“We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei,” said Sather. “On behalf of the New York Rangers organization, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Alexei was an intelligent, energetic young man, with tremendous talent and an extremely bright future.”

New York Rangers Prospect Alexei Cherepanov dies at 19.

Confirmed by an article appearing on TSN.ca. Read the article HERE.

"He set the RSL record for goals by a rookie with 18, beating the previous mark held by Pavel Bure (17 goals), during the 2006-07 season. His total of 29 points in his rookie campaign was more than Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk during their first initial RSL seasons."

Cherepanov was selected by the Rangers with the 17th overall draft pick in 2007.

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/13/08 Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks - UPDATED

A sigh of relief was all that could escape Capitals fans mouths after Alexander Ovechkin notched his second goal in Saturday nights game to give Washington a 4-2 lead with under five minutes left to play.

For the second game in a row the Capitals struggled early, and were forced to prove their resilience as they erased a two goal deficit early in the second period. Tonight they will face a Canucks team and a familiar foe who will look to shut the Caps down.

Roberto Luongo has faced this team as a member of the Florida Panthers, and now as a Vancouver Canuck. He is 15-9-3 with two shutouts, a 2.14 GAA and a .933 SV% lifetime against Washington. Luongo, in all likelihood will shut the door on the Capitals should they stumble out of the blocks again, so it will be imperil that they play a full sixty minute game.

Washington will have to get more production out of their third line of Fleischmann, Nylander and Clark. Not only have they yet to show up on the score sheet, but with the exception of Fleischmann, more resemble the ghosts of the Montreal Forum.

To put it into context, the Canucks third line of Alexander Burrows (2G, 1A), Ryan Kesler (1G, 2A) and Rick Rypien (2G) have ammased 8 points combined, compared to the one assist Michael Nylander marked against Atlanta.

Bruce Boudreau runs an up-tempo offense that relies on each line doing their part. They key to Washington's success tonight will be to ensure they can play a full team game and put up points early. If Luongo is provided a two goal lead, it could be curtains for the Capitals this evening.

Update: Tarik El-Bashir reports that Fedorov will be playing defense tonight. I will continue to update as news becomes available.

"With a game against Roberto Luongo and the undefeated Canucks looming tonight, Coach Bruce Boudreau appears to have changed things up. Sergei Fedorov wearing a black jersey this morning and he's working with the defensemen. Michael Nylander, meantime, has replaced him as the second line center, while Boyd Gordon is centering the third line."

Also of note, Jose Theodore has a career record of 17-7-1-2 with three shutouts in head-to-head match-ups against Roberto Luongo.

Update 2: Here are the line-ups for tonight:

Washington Forwards
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 25-Kozlov
21-Laich, 92-Nylander, 28-Semin
14-Fleischmann, 15-Gordon, 17-Clark
87-Brashear, 39-Steckel, 10-Bradley

Washington Defense
26-Morrisonn, 52-Green
3-Poti, 55-Schultz
91-Fedorov, 23-Jurcina

Brent Johnson will get the start in goal tonight, which according to Boudreau "was the plan from the start".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Quick Hits - Weekly Edition No. 2

The following is a list of news and notes for the Washington Capitals organization from October 4 to October 12.

Stefan Della Rovere for the OHL's Barrie Colts was named the OHL Player of the Week. Della Rovere earned the award after scoring four goals and three assists (4G, 3A) in his last two games. He was selected by the Capitals in the 7th round of the 2008 Entry Draft.

Also in prospect news, Brett Leffler has returned to the Regina Pats line-up after suffering a concussion last week. In his first game back he notched two goals and one assist (2G, 1A) in a 5-4 win over the Kootenay Ice.

"One player whose effort wasn't lacking was right-winger Brett Leffler, who scored two goals and added one assist in his first game back after missing three due to a concussion. However, Leffler also contributed to a near implosion in the second period ."
"I'm very happy with (Leffler's) effort in terms of putting the puck in the net and making some plays and hits, but you have to be more disciplined than that," said Derkatch."
You can read the article HERE.

Russian goaltender Simeon Varlamov won his first professional hockey game last night, as the Hershey Bears beat the Norfolk Admirals in a shootout. Varlamov will be splitting time with starting tender Daren Machesney this season.

I hope that all Capitals fans get a chance to read the October 21, 2008 edition of The Hockey News magazine, where they recognize the Capitals as the most exciting team in the NHL.

Caps "Rock the Red": 4-2 win over Blackhawks.

As the Washington Capitals raised their 2007-08 Southeast Division Championship banner to the rafters, 18,277 rabid fans were hoping to put yesterday out of their memory and turn the page on their 2008-09 campaign. And then the puck dropped.

Oh no. Not again. Not tonight.

That's all one could think as 26 seconds into the game, Washington found themselves down 1-0. A Kris Versteeg shot squeaked through Jose Theodore's pads on what many would call a routine save opportunity to put the Capitals behind the eight ball. At the half way point of the first, the Caps were down 2-0 as sophomore Jack Skille slapped a puck through Theodore's five hole again.

Deja vu.

For the second night in a row, Theodore was off to a rough start and the team would have to claw back to earn the win. Moments after falling behind 2-0, Theodore was called upon to make two desperation saves, denying the Hawks of a 3-0 lead.

It was then that the game started to change.

Washington's gritty fourth line of David Steckel, Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley provided the first spark of the game as Steckel made a nice feed to Bradley on the doorstep for a tap in goal. Just after the five minute mark of the second, Alexander Ovechkin scored a classic Ovechkin-esque goal, shooting through the legs of defenseman Brian Campbell and through the pads of screened Nikolai Khabibulin. This wasn't the first time that Ovechkin abused Campbell for a goal.

For the second game in a row, the Caps came back from an early deficit to tie the game. But unlike last night's short comings, tonight's home opener at the Phone Booth would be different.

Late in the third, Alexander Semin drove to the net and deposited the puck on the stick of Brooks Laich who netted his first of the year. Referee Bill McCreary had to go upstairs to make sure the puck had completely crossed the line, but after only a few minutes of deliberation, it was ruled a goal.

Then with under five minutes left in the third, Alexander Ovechkin sniped a shot low blocker side on Khabibulin to seal the game, his second of the night.

As for Theodore, he seemed to find his game in the second period and was helped out by his defense, who gave up only eleven shots through the remainder of the game. This allowed Theodore to get into the game, and he finished the game stopping 19 of 21 shots for the win.

Also of note was the play of winger Tomas Fleischmann. Fleischmann was a standout in my eyes making nice dekes and smart plays with the puck to try to generate scoring for an otherwise stagnant third line. He was praised for his play by Bruce Boudreau in his post game interview.

The defensive pairing of Milan Jurcina and John Erskine (better know as JURSKINE) played as good as a Caps fan could expect, logging a modest 15 minutes of ice time a piece. The duo was split up for last nights game, but Bruce Boudreau decided it would be best for his top four defensemen to play together while Jurcina and Erskine would fill in where needed. I have ragged on both of them as of late but their play in tonight's game was rather impressive.

The Capitals will now host the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night at 7:00 PM.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Banner: Props Time!

Major props go out to my man Dark Producer over at www.hfboards.com, who hooked us up with the awesome FEAR THE WEAGLE banner. DP is also to thank for Washington Capitals GDT (Game Day Thread) layouts which you can see HERE.

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/11/08 Washington Capitals vs Chicago Blackhawks

The atmosphere leading up to last nights game was tense, as all Caps fans fidgeted, intent on the puck drop to start the season. And in the span of a few hours, it was the equivalent to letting air out of a balloon. A depleted sinking feeling. Doom and gloom.

And for some, it is doom and gloom. This was a team who was expected to come out of the gates fast and strike it's opponents the same way a puma goes for the jugular of the defenseless gazelle. But last night that was not to be.

The Caps gave up three early goals; and, after clawing their way back to a 4-4 tie they blew up in the third, giving up three more goals for a 7-4 finale.

Mike Green and Alexander Semin both had impressive games, putting up 6 points and scoring 3 of the Capitals 4 goals.

Tonight, they take on a talented lineup, featuring the likes of fellow Winnipeger Jonathan Toews, last years Calder Cup winner Patrick Kane and newly acquired Brian Campbell on the blue line. The Blackhawks bolster a much deeper squad than the Thrashers do, so it will be important not to slip tonight.

There are 4.5 million reasons why Jose Theodore has to be more consistent in net. After a decent preseason, Theodore blew up last night allowing four goals over the span of two periods; a few of them being Olaf Kolzig specials (check dictionary under "softies") and was pulled for back-up Brent Johnson who didn't end up fairing much better.

Chicago will ice a dangerous powerplay unit, so it will be important for Washington to limit their trips to the box.

Defense will also have to buckle down as tonight they face a very agile, aggressive and speedy club. This won't bode well for the JURSKINE duo (a combination of Jurcina and Erskine), who are two of the slower defenders in the bunch. To some it may seem like I pick on them but food for thought:

In two AHL games, Karl Alzner has 3 assists and is a +2 rating. I know it is still early in the year but I'm sticking by my convictions that he should be up here and a shake up will be needed to do so.

But to the doom and gloomers, here's even more food for thought:

I unfortunately do not have the stats handy, but I can assuredly say that under the Bruce Boudreau reign (dating back to last November for people just joining the party) the Capitals have rarely lost in back to back contests.

Bruce will have these guys ready to go. In Bruce we trust.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Alexander Ovechkin: "The Rockstar"

No posts coming for Friday so I'll leave you with this.

Pre-Game Thoughts: 10/10/08 Capitals at Thrashers

As the clock pushes it's way past 12 A.M., the dawn of the 2008-09 Washington Capitals season will be upon us. This off-season has been relatively busy for the Caps, all while trying to mold a Stanley Cup contender. Out are goalies Christobal Huet and legendary Olaf Kolzig, heading to Chicago and Tampa Bay respectively.

Washington's big acquisition this year is Jose Theodore, who is expected to carry a heavy load this year if the Capitals are to succeed.

The fowards and defense remains much the same, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Shaone Morrisonn, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Sergei Fedorov have all signed contract extensions, and it appears this team is heading in the right direction.

The opposite is the case for Atlanta. After trading away superstar Marian Hossa at last years trade deadline, and failed to replace his scoring touch during the free agent period. They do not possess a particularly deep roster, and will look to rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian to play important minutes with the rest of this pitiable defensive corps.

That being said, Washington will still have to find a way to limit the playing time of John Erskine and Milan Jurcina in order to succeed. Both had disappointing pre-seasons and were vastly outplayed by rookie Karl Alzner, but the team felt it was best for Alzner to play more minutes in the AHL.

The clock will be ticking on the JURSKINE combination and it might not be long before either; or both, are replaced. But if the past 7 games are any indication, we should be in for a high scoring season from these upstart Caps.

It begins now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hershey blows out Wilkes-Barre 8-4.

The Hershey Bears AHL season began tonight with a bang. In front of 7459 fans, Hershey showed why they are being predicted to have a big season. It didn't take long for the scoring to get underway as veteran Keith Aucoin netted a rare even strength goal 1:36 into the first period. By the end of the stanza the Bears had racked up a 4-1 lead on the strength of three power play goals.

The trend continued through the rest of the game as Wilkes-Barre put in back up goalie Adam Berkhoel to weather the storm. He didn't. By games end both Penguins goalies had given up 4 goals a piece.

Hershey finished the game an incredible 5-7 on the power play, with Graham Mink netting a hat trick with the man advantage. He would finish the game with 3 goals and 2 assists, good enough for first star of the game.

Chris Bourque didn't have much time to get ready for the game, being sent down only two days ago, but the let down from being cut from the Capitals roster didn't seem to phase him. Bourque made an incredible individual play off a Penguins turn over to notch the second goal of the game, proving that his pre-season play was no fluke. He ended the game with 1 goal and 2 assists.

The Bears will now head to Norfolk where they will play Friday night.

Other notables: Keith Aucoin 1 goal and 4 assists, Alexandre Giroux 1 goal and 2 assists, Andrew Gordon 1 goal and 1 assist, Josh Godfrey 1 assist, Karl Alzner 1 assist and +2 rating, Matthieu Perreault 1 goal.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Random Quick Hits, October 7, 2008

Nothing detailed today, just a few quick updates.

Check out the Capital Insider to view Tarik's interview with George McPhee. They talk a lot about the status of Karl Alzner and the decision to send him to Hershey.

Also be sure to head over to www.onfrozenblog.com to read this heart warming piece on Capitals fan Collin McKinney. Don't forget to catch Part II as well. Collin truly redefines the meaning of the word dedication.

And to leave on a humorous note, watch Washington coach Bruce Boudreau in his second ever acting performance (first being Slapshot!) This video will be sure to put a smile on your face!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Alzner, Bourque and Laing assigned to Hershey; Opening night rosters set.

Just a quick update today; Karl Alzner, Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing were all sent to Hershey today, cutting the Capitals roster to 23 players. You can read more about it in Tarik's blog, but I will post a few excerpts of Bruce Boudreau's comments on the situation.

"They were the toughest cuts I've ever had to make. Because they did everything they could. It's just not in the cards right now, for whatever reason. We know they are going to play games for us."

"One of things we thought was Mike Green started down there [Hershey] and Jeff Schultz started down there and we didn't rush either one of them. We felt the same with Karl. He can develop playing 25, 27 minutes a night [for the Bears] and we know he'll be better for it. We believe he's going to have a great NHL future. But right now, at the start of the NHL season, it wasn't in the cards."

"I don't think anyone was shocked. They were all very professional. Chris said he did everything he could to make this team. He will play for the Washington Capitals. Karl Alzner did everything he could."

"Quintin, he was so proud to be a Washington Capital, he probably took it the hardest."

Here is how the roster will look for Opening Night in Atlanta.

# Player Height Weight DOB Age Birthplace
19 Nicklas Backstrom 6' 0" 183 Nov 23, 1987 20 Gavle, SWE
10 Matt Bradley 6' 3" 201 Jun 13, 1978 30 Stittsville, ON, CAN
87 Donald Brashear 6' 3" 234 Jan 7, 1972 36 Bedford, IN, USA
17 Chris Clark(C) 6' 0" 196 Mar 8, 1976 32 South Windsor, CT, USA
91 Sergei Fedorov(A) 6' 2" 207 Dec 13, 1969 38 Pskov, RUS
14 Eric Fehr 6' 4" 212 Sep 7, 1985 23 Winkler, MB, CAN
14 Tomas Fleischmann 6' 1" 190 May 16, 1984 24 Koprivnice, CZE
15 Boyd Gordon 6' 0" 201 Oct 19, 1983 24 Unity, SK, CAN
25 Viktor Kozlov 6' 4" 232 Feb 14, 1975 33 Togliatti, RUS
21 Brooks Laich 6' 2" 210 Jun 23, 1983 25 Wawota, SK, CAN
92 Michael Nylander 6' 1" 195 Oct 3, 1972 36 Stockholm, SWE
8 Alex Ovechkin(A) 6' 2" 220 Sep 17, 1985 23 Moscow, RUS
28 Alexander Semin 6' 2" 205 Mar 3, 1984 24 Krasnojarsk, RUS
39 David Steckel 6' 5" 222 Mar 15, 1982 26 Milwaukee, WI, USA

# Player Height Weight DOB Age Birthplace
4 John Erskine 6' 4" 216 Jun 26, 1980 28 Kingston, ON, CAN
52 Mike Green 6' 2" 208 Oct 12, 1985 22 Calgary, AB, CAN
23 Milan Jurcina 6' 4" 233 Jun 7, 1983 25 Liptovsky, SVK
26 Shaone Morrisonn 6' 4" 210 Dec 23, 1982 25 Vancouver, BC, CAN
2 Brian Pothier 6' 0" 200 Apr 15, 1977 31 New Bedford, MA, USA
3 Tom Poti 6' 3" 210 Mar 22, 1977 31 Worcester, MA, USA
55 Jeff Schultz 6' 6" 221 Feb 25, 1986 22 Calgary, AB, CAN

# Player Height Weight DOB Age Birthplace
1 Brent Johnson 6' 3" 199 Mar 12, 1977 31 Farmington, MI, USA
60 Jose Theodore 5' 11" 182 Sep 13, 1976 32 Laval, QC, CAN

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Godfrey notches hat trick as Bears beat Pens.

Rookie defenseman Josh Godfrey scored his first professional hat trick last night as the Hershey Bears steam rolled the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins 8-2 at the GIANT Center. Godfrey, a 2nd round draft pick of Washington in 2007, had just recently been reassigned to the Bears earlier last week after a successful Rookie Camp, as well as a few preseason games in D.C. Godfrey is coming off a 51 point season for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where coach Craig Hartsburg (now coaching the Ottawa Senators) stressed the importance of playing a well rounded defensive game to compliment his offensive side. Godfrey will log heavy minutes this year in Hershey where he will try to develop his game at the pro level. He was named first star of last nights game.

Also contributing on the score sheet last night were off-season acquisition Keith Aucoin who tallied 3 assists, and Alexandre Giroux who had 2 goals and 2 assists. Aucoin was named third star while Giroux was named second. Daren Machesney stopped 35 of 37 shots in the victor.

The Bears will open up their regular season against these same Pens on the road this coming Wednesday.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Opinion: Bourque and Alzner will make the team.

After closely following the Capitals preseason, it is of my opinion that both speedy winger Chris Bourque and rookie defenseman Karl Alzner will both be on the teams opening night roster.

The 22 year old Bourque is having a tremendously proficient preseason statistically, notching 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 appearances. Last night he tallied a primary assist on Tomas Fleischmann's power play goal and at only 5'8", he was a noticeable force making plays all over the ice.

Alzner was drafted 5th overall in the 2007 draft and his play thus far should have Los Angeles Kings fans questioning the selection of Thomas Hickey, who was picked 4th overall. Though Alzner has been held off the stat sheet, he has been very effective defensively. His calm and cool demenaor with the puck allows for a smooth up ice transition and he rarely turns pucks over. He has a very long reach and is extremely effective with his stick against the oncoming rush. Last night he showed some grit against Philly, getting aggressive with Flyers forwards in the corners. His passive nature on defense had some comparing him to Jeff Schultz, but last night he proved he can get physical. In 4 preseason games he has logged on average 19:35 minutes a game and seems to have chemistry with Capitals veteran Tom Poti. Also, Jeff Schultz has proven so far that he is able to play independently on the blue line and not rely on his partner to bail him out, which benefits Alzner.

Of the two, Alzner is more likely to make the club as it seems to be a numbers game at forward. Both players are waiver exempt and risk being assigned to Hershey so the Capitlas don't have to expose another player to waivers. Also you would have to consider the fact that Washington is teetering up against the salary cap and it will be a difficult task to fit both these players in their lineup. However, no matter what happens, both these young prospects will be first call ups when the time arrives.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quick Hits - Weekly Edition No. 1.

The following is a list of news and notes for the Washington Capitals organization from Septebmer 26 to October 3.

Capitals prospect Joel Broda (selected 5th round, 144th overall in 2008 draft) has been named CHL Player of the Week. In 4 games this year, Broda has tallied 6 goals and 2 assists, putting him fourth overall in WHL scoring. The Moose Jaw Warriors center was one of the standouts at Rookie Camp only a month ago and hopes to continue making strides towards his professional career.

Sergei Fedorov will be playing defense in tonight's preseason game against Philadelphia, and will be paired up with 6'5'' Jeff Schultz. Don't read too much into the scenario as Bruce Boudreau says it's just an experiment. "If Sergei can play defense, we wanted him to get some sort of an idea of how we play on defense," the coach said. "Nothing more than that. We might try him on defense for [today's] game, just to get him a feel for it in case he has to go back there someday. I was just thinking outside the box."

Goaltender Simeon Varlamov and defenseman Sami Lepisto were part of the latest batch of players to be assigned to Hershey to start the year. Omitted from the list were winger Chris Bourque and defenseman Karl Alzner who continue to try to crack the opening night roster. Bourque will play on a line with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom tonight -- a spot I previously thought was reserved for Eric Fehr. If Bourque is able to have a solid game tonight he could very well make the roster. As for Alzner, he will again be paired up with Tom Poti, which could foreshaddow that they will start the season together.

Regina Pats Brett Leffler suffered a concussion last Saturday's game, as the Pats lost 3-2 to Prince Albert in a shootout. Leffler will be out of the line up for atleast a full week while trainers diagnose the severity of his injury. He was selected by Washington in the 5th round of the 2007 Entry Draft.

The Hershey Bears defeated the Norfolk Admirals 5-4 in their first AHL preseason match up. Michael Dubuc scored twice, while Francois Bouchard and Ben Boudreau each potted a goal in the win. The moment was extra special for Boudreau, son of Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau, who scored his first ever professional goal with his father in attendence. The Bears will open their season September 8 in Wikles-Barre Scranton.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Business as Usual?

The Washington Capitals plans today involved a 2:30 PM EST practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, VA. However, there was a slew of events today that made it anything but business as usual for Capitals fans. The following is a time capsule on the days comings and goings.

12:32 PM EST - An article published by Sportsnet.ca is brought up by Caps' fans regarding the possibility of Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin heading to Russia to play in the KHL. Terms are being arranged where as a KHL club would pay the final year on Khabibulin's contract, worth US$6.75 million, which would be cleared off Chicago's salary cap. It is a widespread rumor that the Blackhawks have been inquiring on the services of center Michael Nylander, whom the Caps would possibly deal to make room under the cap.

12:40 PM EST - A rumor breaks on HFBoards.com that there could be a deal in the works between Washington, Chicago and Boston. The deal would send Nylander to Chicago, defenseman Brent Seabrook to Boston, while Washington would end up receiving Marc Savard.

1:04 PM EST - An article out of the Boston Herald notes that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli denies the notion that Savard will be moving, but doesn't rule out the possibility of another trade happening. “We’re not looking to trade Marc Savard. There’s a chance [that another deal could be made]. I’m looking to improve the team. I’ve had a couple of discussions, more than a couple.”

1:48 PM EST - The Capitals make four more roster cuts, the most notable being defenseman Sami Lepisto. Lepisto had suited up in two preseason games and received praise from coach Boudreau regarding his performance. The move was intriguing considering John Erskine and Milan Jurcina still hold roster spots given their poor performances to date. Granted, Lepisto was most likely sent to Hershey due to his waiver status, but it would appear a spot still remains open for a defenseman outside of the organization.

2:24 PM EST - Practice beings with very peculiar line ups. Eric Fehr was put on a line with Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Fehr has been slumping lately and this could be an attempt to get him producing.

Sergei Fedorov dawned a black jersey today, which means he was playing with the defensemen. Fedorov was paired up with Jeff Schultz on the back end, while rookie Karl Alzner remained in camp and practiced with veteran Tom Poti. It is unclear whether or not Alzner will crack the opening day line up, but if in fact he does, it could spell trouble for one of Erskine or Jurcina.

The decision to put Fedorov on the blue line could mean that they will try to squeeze under the salary cap by keeping a 22 man roster with 6 defensemen, while having Fedorov as a fall back in case of injury

Update - Capitals blogger Tarik El-Bashir caught up with Sami Lepisto after practice, who left the complex seemingly upset. "Obviously, it was not thing I wanted to happen. But now it has. I'm just going to work hard to get back here. I'm a little bit upset, but who wouldn't be?"

There was clearly plenty of action for the Caps' today who were supposed to be gearing up for a dress rehearsal of opening night through their final two preseason matches. If anything, today's events leave fans sitting on their hands wondering what kind of team we will see come October 10.

Capitals lose to Flyers as preseason winds down.

The Washington Capitals have had a rather successful preseason up to this point. The team has managed to stay healthy on their way to a 4-1-0 record after tonight's loss in Philadelphia. The Capitals first loss came at the hands of a familiar foe, Joffrey Lupul, who ended their playoff run back in April with an overtime goal in game seven of their opening round series. Sophomore Nicklas Backstrom marked Washington's lone goal in a 2-1 contest. These two teams will be back at it on Friday evening at the Verizon Center for the Caps' second last preseason matchup.

Though held off the scoreboard, 22 year old Chris Bourque had another strong performance, as he tries to make a case for the opening night roster. In his four preseason games, the son of legendary Bruins' defenseman Raymond Bourque has amased 2 goals and 2 assists, while playing plenty on special teams.

In his post game press conference, coach Bruce Boudreau was quoted to have singled out a few players for praise: Chris Bourque, Chris Clark, Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle and Sami Lepisto. Bourque, Alzner and Lepisto are all vying for a spot come opening night at Atlanta.

The defensive pairing of Milan Jurcina and John Erskine will be feeling heat after another sub par performance on the blueline. Both Alzner and Lepisto are pushing hard for roster spots and both Erskine and Jurcina could find themselves out of the lineup. Judging by their performances so far, that might be a welcomed change as they have both done everything in their power to play themselves out of a starting spot.

Goaltender Brent Johnson (22 saves) had another solid performance and seems to have put to bed any notion that he will lose his back up job to rookie sensation Simeon Varlamov, who now appears destined for the AHL.

Boudreau also noted that the teams last two preseason games will be dress rehersals for opening night, so it will be interesting to see who finds themselves omitted from the lineup for Friday nights game.