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.