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.