Welcome!

Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Varlamov Gets the Call

Semyon Varlamov has been named the starter for tomorrow night's Winter Classic.  Bruce Boudreau confirmed his plans with Washington Post writer Tarik El-Bashir at about 8 this evening.

Poti Update

Tom Poti said after practice that he is not sure whether he would be able to play tomorrow because of his head injury.  It was previously stated that Poti would be ready.

Practice: Dec. 31 - Hockey Under the Lights

The Capitals were on ice this afternoon at about 2:15 for their outdoor practice at Heinz Field.  The team took to the ice in their gameday gear and jerseys for a team photo before changing into their practice equipment and skating.  Everyone skated for the third consecutive practice, and it was revealed that Tom Poti is indeed expected to play tomorrow.  That likely means that John Erskine will unfortunately be a healthy scratch.

Even though it was 60 degrees today in downtown Pittsburgh the ice held up pretty well.  After the skate, however, players had different opinions on the ice conditions.  Brooks Laich, in classic Brooksie fashion, said "Any ice is good ice."  The Captain, however, was not impressed.  "It was soft, no good.  But they still have 24 hours."  Actually, Alex, they have more than that, as the NHL announced late this afternoon that the game will start at 8 ET tomorrow due to projected rainfalls of up to one inch and temperatures on the wrong side of 50 degrees during the day.  That will be a truly electric atmosphere - hockey under the lights, you can't really ask for more than that.  The forecast also calls for cold, dry air to push the rain out of the area by early evening, leaving good weather for hockey.  Hopefully.  Fingers are crossed here, folks.

Bruce Boudreau has not yet announced the starting goalie for tomorrow night's game yet.  And he probably won't.  Conventional wisdom says Semyon Varlamov, but you never know with Bruce.

That is all for today from soon-to-be rainy Pittsburgh.  Enjoy New Years with your friends and family, and get ready for the event of the year tomorrow night.

Live From Pittsburgh - Dec. 31

I am in Pittsburgh as of this morning for (hopefully) tomorrow's game.  The weather has, so far, cooperated, and the Caps will be on the ice for practice in about an hour.  It's about 50 degrees and sunny at this point, but the rain is still forecasted to roll in tonight.  But we'll see.  Nice thing about the weather is you never know until it actually happens.

The Caps alumni tied the Pens alumni this morning on a late goal by Peter Bondra.  The retired Caps hero tied the game with about a minute and a half left after falling behind with about 5 left.  There was no overtime or shootout period.

I'm off to go see the venue...more on practice later.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Practice: Dec. 30

The Capitals were on ice for practice this morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they prepare for the Winter Classic.  The Caps are planning on flying to Pittsburgh this afternoon and then practice tomorrow on the outdoor ice sheet (if the weather cooperates).

Nothing new to report from practice other than Matt Bradley worked out on ice before practice by himself. Brads is recovering from a broken finger and is not expected to play this weekend.  All of the forwards and defensemen skated today that skated yesterday as well, so the team is finally beginning to gain some health momentum.  That's a good sign for the rest of the year.

As for the weather, it is beginning to look more and more like the game will be played on Sunday.  The forecast now calls for 80% chance of rain with 48 degree temperatures on Saturday, clearly impossible playing conditions.  However, the NHL and NBC have maintained that the game will be played on Saturday if it is "humanly possible."  Hopefully the hockey gods have their way over mother nature for this one.

More later.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Practice: Dec. 29 / Winter Classic Info

Updating last night's post, Keith Aucoin has been sent down to Hershey of the AHL along with Andrew Gordon.  Gordon tweeted that he was being sent down at about 1 AM, and at that time, the Caps had not yet released an official notice that these two players were being returned to the AHL.  My apologies for that mishap.

The Capitals were in fact on the ice for practice today, just not at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  Instead, the Capitals took their exploits outside at the Chevy Chase Club, a country club located on Connecticut Avenue in, you guessed it, Chevy Chase, Maryland.  This practice is becoming something of a tradition, now occurring in three consecutive years.  Among the forwards, everyone skated, which means that Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perrault are feeling better.  Both of those rookie centermen missed last night's game with various injuries.  Johansson was centering the 3rd line between Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera, and Perreault was back with the 2nd line between Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich.  This seems to indicate that they will be healthy enough for the Winter Classic this weekend.

Off the blue line, Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan both skated as well as they recover from injuries.  Sloan has not played in over two weeks and is on IR, while Poti is considered day-to-day with a new injury besides the face one he suffered against the Penguins a week ago.  No word on their availability for the festivities this weekend.

And about those festivities - the weather forecast for Pittsburgh is deteriorating by the hour, with rain and warm temperatures forecast for Jan. 1.  The rain would render the playing surface unplayable in several ways, including the generation of fog, a bumpy ice sheet, and even flooding.  The NHL plans to try and bump the game backwards as long as it can before calling it off for the day, and we could see a start as late as 8 in the evening.  If the game cannot be played on Jan. 1, it will be played on Jan. 2nd at noon.  The forecast for Sunday is much more favorable, with temperatures in the low 30s and sun expected, perfect for a hockey game.

That's all for now.  Check back later.

Gordon Demoted

Andrew Gordon was sent down to the Hershey Bears of the AHL following the Capitals' 3-0 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday night.  Gordo was exceptional during his time in DC, making the decision curious that he, and not recent callup Keith Aucoin, who has little to no future with the big club, was the one sent down.  I guess we'll see what comes of this later during the week.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Blank Canadiens

The Washington Capitals certainly washed some of the bad taste out of their mouths from last April tonight by shutting out the Montreal Canadiens by a final score of 3-0.  With the victory, the Caps are guaranteed to keep pace with the Lightning in the race for the Southeast Division.  Semyon Varlamov made 25 stops for his second shutout this season.

The Caps again let their opponents rush out to a fast start when they took back-to-back penalties within the first five minutes of the game.  The Canadiens generated excellent power play pressure, but Semyon Varlamov was excellent in keeping the visitors off the board.  After the early pressure by Montreal, the teams switched roles, and it was the Caps' turn to dominate offensively.  Washington was able to create strong opportunities both at even strength and on the power play, but were thwarted by Carey Price several times, often spectacularly.  Finally, a little over 16 minutes into the period, Jay Beagle scored what could be the goal of the year when he pivoted out from behind the Montreal cage and ripped a backhander top corner on Price with his back turned to the goal to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage.  The Capitals used that momentum to continue to pressure Price and the Canadiens, and were rewarded again when Mike Green cashed a nice pass from Nicklas Backstrom with only 22 seconds left on the clock, and the Caps headed to the dressing room with a 2-0 cushion.  In the second, the Caps had several opportunities to put the game out of reach with extended power play time, but again were thwarted by Price in Montreal's cage.  The Canadiens also counterattacked admirably with several rushes up ice, but Varlamov was again up to the task. The game began to lose it's pace as the Capitals went into lockdown mode and the Habs became more passive, and the 2nd period concluded with a 2-0 Caps lead.  In the third, much of the same passive hockey was played for about the first 10 minutes, but the Habs turned up the heat with successive power plays about halfway through the period and were buzzing the Caps end consistently.  Once again, however, Semyon Varlamov was excellent and made several good saves to keep the Habs off the board.  Alex Ovechkin wrapped up the scoring with an empty-netter, his 14th, at 19:26, and the Caps gained critical momentum heading into this weekend's primetime showcase in the Steel City.

Observations:

Semyon Varlamov is running with the goalie job.  Though his team came out flat, Varly did not, and won the game for his team in the first 7 minutes with his play.  His keeping the Habs off the board early enabled the Caps to generate momentum and not allow that killer early goal that has been an unfortunate trademark of this team recently.  Varly has earned the start he will receive in the Winter Classic.

A great game for Karl Alzner.  Number 27 was blocking shots all night, using his size well to cut off skating lanes, and finished his checks admirably.  He also earned an assist on Ovie's late tally with a nice chip up the boards.  In fact, Karl is getting power play time, something he hasn't come near in his first year and a half in DC.

Nick Backstrom needs to either shoot more or pass more on the PP, which fired blanks again tonight.  19 has this bad habit of dancing around the top of the circles on the man advantage, and it doesn't really do anything besides make every player on the ice yell at him to do something.  He'll figure it out, but it is frustrating to watch such a key component of the power play struggle with the man advantage.

Caps have tomorrow off before practicing Thursday and then jetting to Pittsburgh for Saturday's Winter Classic showdown with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.  The weather looks like it won't cooperate, but more on that tomorrow.  For now, enjoy a nice win, Caps fans, and get ready for this weekend.

Updates from the Morning Skate

Some personnel notes from Kettler:

Tom Poti skated but will not play. He is recovering from a face injury suffered last Thursday. Jeff Schultz did skate and will take the warmup tonight. He said he felt good and that he hopes to play.

Marcus Johansson did not skate and will not play tonight because of a "nagging injury." Mathieu Perrault skated, but "might be questionable", whatever that means. As a result of these injuries, Keith Aucoin has been called up from Hershey of the AHL.

Semyon Varlamov was the first goalie off the ice, indicating that he will start tonight's game.

That's it for now.

Gameday: vs. Montreal, Dec. 28

The Capitals welcome the Canadiens to Verizon Center tonight for the first time since the team from Montreal knocked them out of the playoffs last season. The Canadiens are currently in the midst of their traditional holiday road trip, which they are 1-3 on. They sit in 8th in the East.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the nod in net for the Caps after his 33-save victory on Sunday. Carey Price, who has started all but 3 of the Habs' games this season, may start, but media speculation out of Montreal says that backup Alex Auld will start because Price has been struggling lately.

Any updates on Caps injuries will come later via this page or via Twitter (@HarryHawkings). Puck drops on the game 7:07ish.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Practice: Dec. 27

The Caps were on the ice today at Kettler for practice after last nights victory in Carolina. Some personnel updates from practice:

Tom Poti did not skate and is not expected to play tomorrow. Jeff Schultz did skate, but no update on an impending return was given.

Off the blue line, the only forwards missing were Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson, who were given maintenance days to rest various nagging injuries. Boyd Gordon had the stitches from his foot infection removed today but is not expected to play tomorrow night, either.

That's all for now.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Knock off Canes

The Capitals defeated the Hurricanes tonight by a score of 3-2 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, knocking off their divisional rival for the fourth time in four tries this season.  With the win, the Caps remain on pace in terms of points with Tampa Bay at the top of the Division, who defeated the Thrashers in overtime.  However, the Lightning still hold two games in hand on the Capitals.

The Caps allowed the Hurricanes to gain some early momentum when Brooks Laich took a tripping penalty about and a minute and a half into the contest, and Carolina dominated play, though they did not score.  They peppered Semyon Varlamov, who was a last minute replacement, but Varly was up to the task, making several very nice saves to keep the score knotted at zero.  With about 6 minutes left in the frame, Matty Perreault broke through to give the Caps a 1-0 advantage, which they kept to the first break.  In the second, the Caps used an early power play to generate some serious pressure of their own, but were unable to convert, being denied by Cam Ward several times, often spectacularly.  Then the Hurricanes caught a break when a bad line change gave them a 2 on 1, which Jussi Jokinen buried to equalize.  But only 3 minutes later, Alex Ovechkin dangled in on Ward and was denied, but David Steckel was there to cash the rebound and give the Caps the lead.  Then, Alex Ovechkin put the Caps ahead by two just a little bit later with his first goal in ten games, with a rebound in front.  For the rest of the period, both teams got good offensive chances, but the goaltenders stood tall with some excellent saves.  In the third, the Hurricanes came out fast and were rewarded only 30 seconds in when Tuomo Ruutu deflected a shot in to bring Carolina within one.  When the Hurricanes were then given two consecutive power plays, the Caps were back on their heels and it looked like Carolina was going to tie, but Semyon Varlamov stood his ground and made several excellent stops to keep the advantage at 1.  The Caps were not able to score on the empty net late in the game, but came home with the victory nonetheless, and two big divisional points.

Observations

The monkey is off Alex Ovechkin's back.  Ovie was great all over the rink tonight and was rewarded with a goal for the first time in a long time, a nice greasy one to boot.  Hopefully this is the type of goal and game that can get him really rolling, because man does he need it.

Semyon Varlamov was excellent tonight.  He had no chance on either goal, and made several highlight reel stops when his team needed them.  He was a late replacement after Michal Neuvirth came up "a little sore" after the morning skate, and he delivered.  This only clouds the goalie situation, however; it looked like Neuvy was going to run with the job, but Varly's performance tonight almost certainly makes him the starter against the Habs on Tuesday.

Mike Green was the best player on the ice again tonight.  He created Ovechkin's goal with movement around the offensive zone and was great on defense for the second consecutive game.  He's playing hero with his bad knee, and the Caps need him to keep performing at this high level.

Caps have practice tomorrow before they get back in action against the struggling Canadiens on Tuesday.  Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Varlamov In

Semyon Varlamov was first off the ice during the preame warmup and now will likely start against the Hurricanes.

Gameday: at Carolina, Dec. 26

The Capitals will meet the Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh for the second time this season, after shutting them out 3-0 during their last visit.  The Capitals are trying to build momentum from an epic game against the Penguins on Thursday, while the Hurricanes are trying to rebound after a loss at the hands of Carey Price and the Canadiens.

It is assumed that Michal Neuvirth gets the start tonight for the Capitals after having three great games in a row, and his good performances against Carolina this year.  Cam Ward will start for the home side.

No other updates on the conditions of Jeff Schultz or Boyd Gordon are available at this time, considering that the Caps just landed in snowy Carolina about 15 minutes ago (via Eric Fehr).  I will do my best to convey any news on them as the day moves along.

As for the Rapid Rewind - I am heading right into the teeth of this blizzard to help with some family matters, where we are expected to get upwards of 15 inches and have 40 MPH winds.  I might not be able to write a review tonight, but I hope to have one up by tomorrow midday if, in fact, I cannot do one tonight.

Puck drops in Carolina 7:07ish. Enjoy the game!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Capitals Robbed by Fleury

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins put on a grand spectacle of hockey tonight in our Nation's capital, battling it out through 65 minutes and seven rounds of a shootout before the Penguins finally emerged victorious, taking home a 3-2 decision.

From the very beginning, the game had the feeling of a classic when inside the first minute, Alex Ovechkin absolutely destroyed countryman Evgeni Malkin behind the Pittsburgh cage.  Less than a minute later, in his attempt to get back at Ovie, Malkin took a bad interference penalty, but the Capitals were unable to convert on the ensuing man advantage.  Right out of the box, Malkin converted a clearing pass into a beautiful offensive play that saw Sidney Crosby (who the @&%$ else!) tip in a Kris Letang shot for his league-leading 29th goal and a 1-0 Pittsburgh advantage.  The Capitals remained on their heels for a little bit before Chris Conner took a penalty and gave the Caps a power play that was quickly turned into a 5-on-3, but Brooks Laich negated that with an interference call 45 seconds.  The teams exchanged several chances throughout the rest of the frame, but Marc-Andre Fleury was absolutely sensational and kept the Caps off the board.  In the second, Mike Green hooked Malkin on a breakaway barely a minute in, but Michal Neuvirth stood his ground admirably to deny the Russian on the ensuing penalty shot.  Thereafter, the Caps buzzed the offensive end continually but were continually robbed by Fleury.  The Caps drew another power play about halfway through the frame that turned into a 2 man advantage when Matt Cooke somehow managed to put the puck over the glass over Neuvirth's head from 190 feet away, and Mike Green finally converted to tie the game on a nice glove side snap shot.  The Capitals also killed off a penalty late in the frame, and seemed to have all the momentum heading into the third period.  But sure enough, Sidney Crosby drove the net only thirteen seconds in and Chris Kunitz buried the loose change to give the Penguins the lead.  The Penguins then got two successive power plays and seemed to have the game won until halfway through the second man advantage when Brooks Laich handled a Kris Letang miscue at the red line and dished to Mike Knuble in front, who buried the puck past Fleury for the equalizer, sending Verizon Center into a frenzy.  However, neither team was able to dent the opposing goaltender in the final 5:30.  Then the real fun began.  In overtime, Mike Green rushed up ice and dangled through literally every Pittsburgh player below the circles and seemingly won the game for the Capitals when he slipped a puck into the crease that Fleury swept out of the goal under his glove.  The play went to review, and even though Fleury's entire glove was in net, the referees determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the play (because the puck could not actually be seen).  Both teams had excellent chances throughout the rest of the extra period, including an Alex Ovechkin semi-breakaway, but were unable to score, and the game moved to a shootout.  Both Ovechkin and Kris Letang scored in the first round of the shootout.  Then six consecutive Capitals shooters attempted to score on Fleury glove side, and he repeatedly made spectacular denials with his trapper.  Michal Neuvrith was equally stellar on the other end, including a great stop on Sid, but was eventually beaten by Pascal Dupuis to send the Penguins home victorious.

Observations:

There is no shame in losing this game.  The Capitals played hard from the drop of the puck and stuck with, and even dominated, one of the best teams in the league with the best player in the league for periods of time.  Regardless of the loss and their continued futility on the power play, still an excellent game by the Capitals all around.  The Thrashers and the Hurricanes also lost tonight, so the Caps actually gained some ground on two of their rivals.

Mike Green was an absolute hero tonight.  He was all over the place offensively, scored a huge goal, threw 8 hits, blocked 5 shots, and logged over 33 minutes of ice time - absolutely magnificent from number 52.  He was denied the goal of the year in overtime, but Greenie showed us tonight that he is still one of the best even with his wonky MCL.

A note to the Capitals' shootout shooters: when a goaltender has repeatedly made amazing stops with his glove hand all night, do not try to beat him there SIX times in a row in the shootout!  Mix it up a little!  C'mon, man(s)!

Tom Poti left the game in the first period after taking a high stick from John Erskine and did not return.  You have to wonder about that eye that was so badly damaged in the playoffs last year.

Caps are back at it on Boxing Day against Carolina and their superstar captain Eric Staal in Raleigh.  Puck drop for that game is scheduled for  7 P.M.

Gameday: vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 23

The Capitals welcome the Penguins to the Verizon Center tonight in a prelude to the Winter Classic and by far the biggest game of the Caps' season.  The Penguins beat the Panthers last night by a 5-2 count in Pittsburgh, and to nobody's surprise, Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to 22 games.  If the Capitals are going to win, they need to find a way to stop 87, something no one has been able to do all season.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to start in nets for the Caps after stopping 59 of 62 in his last 2 games, both wins.  Pittsburgh will counter with Marc-Andre Fleury, who, after being nothing short of dreadful the first month of the season, has been absolutely stellar over the last month or so.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz took the morning skate and was stickhandling, a good sign, but will not play tonight.

No lineup changes are expected for the Capitals other than Eric Fehr replacing the injured Matt Bradley.  Brads is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after breaking a finger on Tuesday.

Puck will drop tonight at about 7:07.  Grab your cold ones and get ready for a doozy.  (Caps247 does not endorse underage consumption of alcohol. Use at your own risk).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Practice: Dec. 22

The Capitals were on the ice for a practice this morning at Kettler after last night's 5-1 thrashing of the Devils at Verizon Center.  Some notes from the skate:

Tom Poti took a maintenance day to rest and was not present.

Eric Fehr was back on the ice after attending his grandmother's funeral back in Canada.  He will return to the lineup tomorrow night against 87 and company.

Matt Hendricks also skated and said he should be ready to play tomorrow night.  Whether he will crack the lineup is another story, after such great games by Jay Beagle and Andy Gordon last night.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Picking Up Steam

The Washington Capitals won for the second game in a row tonight, defeating the hapless New Jersey Devils by a final mark of 5-1.  The Capitals got a little bit of production from everybody tonight, and the result was critical team win before a huge game Thursday.

The start of the game was rather stale, with both teams failing to generate much offense.  But halfway through the period the Devils cranked it up, and the suddenly hot Michal Neuvirth had to be excellent to preserve the tie.  Late in the frame, Marcus Johansson chased down a John Erskine clearing attempt and dished it in front to a hard charging Andrew Gordon, who buried it for his first career NHL marker.  The Devils took it to the Capitals for the rest of the first and the first half of the second, and the lead was only preserved by exceptional play from Michal Neuvirth.  But the Devils equalized on the power play when Patrik Elias slapped a puck past Neuvirth short side from the circles.  The Devils kept pushing, and had the Caps on their heels again, before Jay Beagle broke through for a score on a scrum in front of the net to put the home side up by one.  Jason Chimera broke the game open 3 minutes later when he broke in on a long pass from Andrew Gordon and roofed the puck past a sprawling Martin Brodeur.  John Carlson effectively ended the game a few minutes later when he rifled a slap shot past Brodeur off an Alex Ovechkin drop pass.  In the third, Mike Knuble scored on a deflection to close out the markers and send the Capitals home with a much needed confidence builder.  Michal Neuvirth made several strong saves in the dying moments as well to preserve the 5-1 advantage.

Observations:

Andrew Gordon: welcome to the NHL.  A two point night by the youngster, including his first NHL goal, done the old fashioned way with a hard net drive and tenacity on the forecheck.  He might not be needed much longer, but he's made a real impact since he came up.

Alex Ovechkin: where art thou?  Ovechkin has now scored just two goals in his last 18 games, truly disturbing futility at scoring for such an accomplished offensive player like Ovie.  I'm starting to doubt that it will come.  But at least the team is winning again, that's what counts.

Michal Neuvirth was good again.  He made huge stops when his team needed them most and was cool and calm in the crease, showing excellent rebound control for the second game in a row.  He also directed his defensemen well and has earned his chance to "run" with the job.

The Caps will practice tomorrow before their biggest game of the season, which is on Thursday, when big, bad Sidney Crosby and the Penguins visit the phone booth.  You can count on Sid's point streak sitting at 22 games when that game faces off.  Think he'll be fired up?  Puck drop Thursday is scheduled for 7:00 PM.

Updates From the Morning Skate

Alexander Semin skated again and has been re-upgraded to a game-time decision.  Sasha will take the warmup and then a decision will be made on his status.

Matt Hendricks is now not expected to play with an undisclosed injury.

Michal Neuvirth was first off the ice, indicating that he will indeed start tonight's contest.

Gameday: vs. New Jersey, Dec. 21

The Capitals welcome the New Jersey Devils to Verizon Center tonight as they look to continue their winning ways.  The Devils are currently in 14th place in the East, but have already beaten the Capitals by five goals this year (and have also been beaten by five at Verizon Center).

The Capitals are expected to roll with Michal Neuvirth after he won on Sunday night.  This would be Neuvirth's third consecutive start.  On the other end, the Devils have confirmed that the more mortal Martin Brodeur (2.84, .894) will start for the Devils.

Alexander Semin has been downgraded from questionable to doubtful and is not expected to play, meaning Andrew Gordon will keep his jersey for the time being.  Eric Fehr will miss the contest due to a personal matter, which means that DJ King will likely get a jersey.

Puck drops 7:37-ish.  Check back later.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Practice: Dec. 20

The Capitals were on the ice today for an optional practice after last night's big win over the Senators, with several key players taking the day off to rest and recuperate after such an emotionally draining two weeks.

Eric Fehr has left the team to attend his grandmother's funeral back in Canada and will likely miss tomorrow night's game.

Alexander Semin skated as he continues to recover from an undisclosed lower body injury and a bout with the flu.  Coach Bruce Boudreau said that he was "getting closer.  When he's ready, he'll let us know."

That's all for now.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Finally!

The Washington Capitals finally managed to WIN A GAME tonight, taking down the Ottawa Senators by a final score of 3-2 and breaking their record losing streak.

The beginning of the game, once again, was thoroughly depressing as the Caps came out on their heels and were hemmed in their zone for extended periods of time repeatedly.  After a miscommunication behind the net, Jesse Winchester intercepted a bad clearing attempt and fed Ryan Shannon in front, who made no mistake with the puck and buried it for a 1-0 Ottawa lead.  With all of the momentum, the Senators contiuned to press and Chris Neil dangled behind the Capitals D and fed a wide open Chris Kelly on the lip of the crease for a 2-0 lead, and it looked like the Capitals were going to spiral deeper down into oblivion.  The ultimate dagger occurred when Eric Fehr thought he had scored to close out the 1st period, but it was waved off as it crossed the goal line half a second too late.  The second period was a different story - I am sure that Bruce Boudreau probably tripled his season F-bomb count in the locker room, and boy did it work.   The Caps were flying from the drop of the puck and Mathieu Perreault found twine just 34 seconds in to bring the Capitals within one.  56 seconds later, Alex Ovechkin stole the puck down low and dished to Eric Fehr in front, who slid one home past Brian Elliott to equalize and give the Caps their first real positive energy in weeks.  Full of emotion and fighting to break their streak, Perreault scored again on the power play at the 6:55 mark to put the Caps ahead for good.  Washington was electric throughout the rest of the period, dominating and generating multiple chances and being continually robbed by Brian Elliott.  Alex Ovechkin even had a goal disallowed when he kicked a puck past the Ottawa netminder.  In the third period, the Senators came hard and fast, but the Capitals were able to fend off several power plays and Michal Neuvirth pulled out several clutch saves in order to break the streak.  Hallelujah!

Observations:

What a game by Matty Perreault!  The young Quebecois picked the team up and had a special game tonight, coming up with two clutch goals and buzzing all night.  He created chances, was active away from the puck, and came up big when his team needed him.  He's here to stay.

My apologies to Michal Neuvirth.  Number 30 showed up tonight after a beyond shaky outing in Boston, making key saves when he needed to, particularly in the third period.  He had excellent rebound control and played big in the net.  Kudos to Mikey.

Alex Ovechkin is getting there.  Slowly.  A great pass tonight hopefully is a sign of things to come from the slumping superstar.  A date with the miserable Devils should help him.

Caps are back at it on Tuesday when the lowly Devils visit Verizon Center to kick of a big week that includes a visit from the Penguins.  Game time Tuesday is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.

Neuvirth In

Michal Neuvirth led the Caps out of the tunnel for pregame warmups tonight, seemingly indicating that he will receive the start tonight.

Looks like Bruce Boudreau wants to extend this streak, folks - starting a goalie in a back to back who has a potential injury and cost his team the game last night.  God, this man pisses me off.

Gameday: at Ottawa, Dec. 19

The Capitals are in Ottawa tonight as they play the second game of a back-to-back set.  They will once again attempt to break their losing streak of eight consecutive games, as they have dropped to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Capitals are expected to start Semyon Varlamov in goal tonight after Michal Neuvirth took the loss in Boston last night.  Ottawa is expected to counter with Brian Elliott.

Alexander Semin is not with the team at the moment but there is still a chance he joins his teammates for tonight's game.  Semin is currently battling the flu and an undisclosed lower-body injury.

Puck drops 7:37-ish.  Check back later.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Late Surge Not Enough, Slide at Eight

The Capitals fell tonight in Boston by a score of 3-2 and their record losing streak is now at a sickening eight consecutive games.  After a horrid first period that saw the Bruins blitz for three goals, the Capitals dominated the next two frames and outshot the B's 25-2 in the third, but were unable to equalize.

The Bruins came out fast in the first period and the Caps were simply no match for their size and speed and Patrice Bergeron put one behind Michal Neuvirth's legs with the game barely three minutes old...another soft goal for Neuvirth.  The Bruins scored again five minutes later when Andrew Ference (ANDREW FERENCE!) scored on a curveball from the point that somehow managed to bend three feet right in front of Neuvirth.  The B's blitzed the Caps for the rest of the frame as well, and Blake Wheeler potted another goal with the help of Neuvy again, who let another five hole goal through his legs.  The second period was a different story, however.  The Capitals came out with speed, clearly desperate to break the throws of their losing streak.  They received a ray of hope when Matt Bradley did his job as an energizer and scored a sharp angle goal on Thomas after Bruin Tyler Seguin missed on a breakaway that gave the Capitals even more life.  They were relentless in their forechecking pressure and got pucks to the net, but were continually denied by the heroics of Tim Thomas and some key whiffs from Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich.  In the third, the Caps dominated from the drop of the puck spending almost the entirety of the frame in the Boston zone, but Thomas was up to the task on the first nineteen shots he saw before Karl Alzner blasted a slapshot over his shoulder to bring the Caps within one.  Despite tremendous pressure and opportunities, however, the Caps were unable to dent Thomas again and fell to their eighth consecutive loss.

Observations:

This is getting absurd.  The Caps literally cannot get any more unlucky than they are right now.  Alex Ovechkin hit another post (that makes six in the last three games for the team) and multiple Caps missed wide open nets and fanned on shots all night.  It has to come...if it doesn't, they are obviously in big trouble.

Michal Neuvirth cost his team this game.  As a goaltender, you have to have the ability to steal a game for your team, and he was simply unable to do it.  Of the three goals that he let in, two were inexcusable, right through his five hole on the ice, and need to be stopped by an NHL goaltender, especially in the middle of one of the worst losing streaks in recent memory.  If you take those goals out, guess what?  The Caps would have won!

It does not get any easier for the Caps as they travel to Ottawa to take on a rested Senators team tomorrow night.  The Caps are going to have to get up bigtime for that one, the night after such a crushing defeat.  But they are running out of options.  The time is now, or it may be never.

Game time tomorrow is scheduled for 7:30 PM.

Gameday: at Boston, Dec. 18

The Capitals will try once more to break out of their losing skid tonight when they travel to Beantown to take on the Bruins for the fourth and final time this regular season.

The Capitals will start Michal Neuvirth tonight in goal.  He has sat the last two games in favor of Semyon Varlamov.

The Bruins have not yet announced who will start.  However, Tim Thomas lost on Thursday in Montreal, so Claude Julien may opt to try and give his team a boost with Tuukka Rask.

Alexander Semin is still suffering from an undisclosed lower body injury.  He is listed as a game time decision.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Varlamov and Neuvirth Show Off Their Masks for the Winter Classic

Check out this video from caps365.com, which features the Capitals' two goaltenders showing us the masks that they will wear Jan. 1 at Heinz Field.  I wonder who's going to start?

http://video.capitals.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=810&id=87824

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Streak Reaches Seven

The Capitals once again failed to pull out of their record losing streak tonight at Verizon Center, falling to the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in overtime.  The Ducks, this season, have been one of the worst teams in the Western Conference, and added themselves to the long list of mediocre teams that the Capitals have lost to this season.

The Capitals came out fast looking to avenge their shellacking at the hands of the Rangers on Sunday night, piling shots fast on Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.  They were rewarded for their efforts with a Brooks Laich backhander from the slot that was all Nicklas Backstrom, who carried the puck all the way around the zone off the entry before dishing it to Laich.  The Capitals continued to buzz the Anaheim cage for the remainder of the period, but were unable to dent Hiller again, including a Brooks Laich shot that sat on the goal line momentarily until Ryan Getzlaf swept it out.  In the second, the Capitals were once again the better team, forcing Hiller to make several incredible saves, including one on Nicklas Backstrom during a fast break.  Then Mike Knuble took a tripping penalty, and, predictably, the wheels came off.  Again.  Joffrey Lupul scored on a layup during the ensuing power play, and from then on, the Capitals looked deflated, fragile, and out of sync.  They picked up their play towards the middle of the third period, and generated good pressure once more, but were stymied by Hiller continually to keep the score knotted at one.  In overtime, the Capitals controlled play for the first three minutes or so but the Ducks managed to counterattack.  With just under a minute remaining, Ryan Getzlaf walked out from the corner, totally demolishing John Carlson and keeping him off the puck, and snapped a quick shot past Semyon Varlamov on the short side to win the game, another one that Varly would probably like to have back.  Sigh.

Observations:

Oh, well.  At least they got a point.  Seriously, you have to take what you can get at this juncture.  The Capitals are simply not playing well and it does not matter who the opponent is, their offense is not clicking and their defense and goaltending, right now, is not good enough to win games on their own.

Alex Ovechkin disappeared...again.  The FORMER best player in the world has almost nothing to show for his recent games, including two goals in his last twelve, and is fast approaching a pace of less than a point per game.  I'm starting to doubt that he is going to have a hot streak where he puts the team on his back...maybe it's just not to be for this year's version of the Capitals.  The Winter Classic, at this rate, is going to be a bad day for Caps fan.

Semyon Varlamov was fighting the puck all night.  His stat line might not look bad, good even, but he should have had the winning goal and did not look comfortable at all during the game.  He's not the story, but him being more comfortable is definitely going to help the Capitals get out of their funk.

It does not get any easier for the boys in red as they travel north this weekend for two crucial road games, in Boston Saturday and Ottawa Sunday.  The Capitals have to get at least one win in those games.  It is critical for their confidence as they look towards not only January 1st, but also the rest of their season.  Game time Saturday from TD Garden is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Varlamov to Start

Semyon Varlamov has replaced Michal Neuvirth as the starting goalie for tonight's game.  Neuvirth has not yet recovered sufficiently from his bout with the flu to start, although he will dress as the backup, for now.

Gameday: vs. Anaheim, Dec. 15

The Washington Capitals will once again try to bust out of their worst losing streak in more than three years tonight when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to Verizon Center.  The Capitals have lost six consecutive games since they defeated the Blues at Scottrade center on December 1.

Bruce Boudreau is expected to give Michal Neuvirth the nod in goal tonight after Semyon Varlamov's debacle in New York on Sunday.  Randy Carlyle, fresh off signing a contract extension, will start Jonas Hiller.

Alexander Semin is considered questionable for tonight's game with an undisclosed injury.  Boyd Gordon will miss 1-2 weeks with another undisclosed injury as well, meaning David Steckel will receive a jersey as the faceoff specialist for at least the next three games.  Mike Green's status for the game has yet to be determined after he missed both games over the weekend with the flu.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Day After...

After last nights embarrassment at the hands of the New York Rangers, coach Bruce Boudreau had little to say other than that his team will have to work hard in practice this week in order to break out of this massive funk that they are in.  His captain spoke to more of the same, repeating that this is unknown territory for the Bruce Boudreau Capitals, and that they just have to keep working hard and, hopefully, good things will come.

Not really much to report out of Kettler Capitals Iceplex today other than Alex Ovechkin is believed to be okay after taking an Alexander Semin shot to the knee late in last night's game.  Ovechkin was seen limping after the game but proclaimed himself fine.  I guess we will see.

Any more updates from practice will be posted later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Hit Rock Bottom; Ovechkin Hurt

The Washington Capitals imploded tonight at Madison Square Garden, getting absolutely blasted by the Rangers.  With the loss, the Capitals drop their sixth consecutive game and are hanging on to a top seed in the East only through leading their weak division.

The Capitals came out hard in the first period, generating good pressure on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was up to the task.  The Capitals once again were unable to convert on their opening power play opportunity, and conceded the first goal of the game, AGAIN, when Alex Frolov somehow beat three Capital defenders down low and dished the puck to Brandon Prust, who beat Semyon Varlamov with a sharp angle shot, one that the young Russian would probably like to have back.  But that was only the beginning of the worst performance of Varly's young career.  In the second period, the Rangers scored three goals in three minutes, one each off the stick of Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik, and Brandon Dubinsky.  The Capitals continued to screw around in their own zone and not get anything done when they possessed the puck, and Alex Ovechkin tried to pull a card out of Sidney Crosby's book with a fight to get his team going. The Caps were gifted a power play a little more than halfway through the frame to try and make the contest interesting...but failed at that, too.  Brandon Prust stole the puck off an errant Ovechkin pass in the offensive zone and fed it to Brian Boyle, who found a cutting Marc Staal for a shorthanded goal on the ensuing 2-on-1, effectively ending the game.  The Rangers added two more in the third period from Ryan Callahan before the massacre ended with a final score of 7-0.  Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots for his 5th shutout, while Semyon Varlamov was simply dreadful, stopping 13 of 20.

Observations:

I really don't even know what to say other than I don't think it can get much worse - but I've been saying that for the last week.  The Capitals were utterly humiliated tonight in a way that we have not seen in a long, long time.  After the first five minutes of the game, they were beaten to every puck, lost every battle along the boards, and were broken men by the time the game ended.  They are getting shots, but are unable to finish.  They limit their opponent to low shot totals, but the chances find the back of the net.  This is just depressing to watch; and a total gut check time for this team.  As a Caps fan, you have to try and find a positive, but you just can't.  It's a helpless feeling.  And it sucks.

The Capitals, if they survive what Bruce Boudreau is sure to do to them over the next two days, will face the Anaheim Ducks and superstars Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry at the Verizon Center on Wednesday before hitting the road for two tough road games in Boston and Ottawa on Saturday and Sunday.  A huge, huge week for the boys in red.

Gameday: at NY Rangers, Dec. 12

The Capitals travel to New York tonight to take on the Rangers in the World's Most Famous Arena.  The Capitals are looking to snap their current five game losing skid, their worst under head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to make the start in nets for the Capitals after Michal Neuvirth played yesterday in DC.

One would figure that Marty Biron will start for the Rangers after Henrik Lundqvist played last night - but you never know with John Tortorella.

No word yet on Mike Green's return to the lineup.

Check back later.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Snowed in by Avalanche

The Washington Capitals lost their fifth consecutive game tonight, falling 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche at Verizon Center.  With the loss, the Caps closed out one of the worst homestands in recent memory in awful fashion and managed to make me sick to my stomach (again).

The Avalanche opened the scoring when Michal Neuvirth had a horrendous miscue, allowing Kevin Shattenkirk to score from the far boards at a ridiculous angle through his five hole.  The Capitals got back into the game momentarily when Alex Ovechkin finally showed some signs of life and made a glittering coast to coast drive that culminated with a nice dish to Mike Knuble in the slot, who batted the puck out of midair to tie the game.  Washington managed to create some sustained pressure thoughout the rest of the period but the Avalanche killed all their momentum when Ryan Wilson (again, who?) scored with a minute and a half left in the period on an atrocious defensive breakdown that allowed Wilson to skate in alone from the wing and roof a shot past Neuvirth.  The second period again saw the Capitals come out and generate pressure before Alex Semin absolutely destroyed John-Michael Liles with a cross check to the back of the head that saw Semin excused from the contest and spotted the Avalanche a five minute power play, which Paul Stastny converted on to give the visiting side their eventual game winner.  The Capitals buzzed the Colorado cage for the entire third period and Matt Hendricks was rewarded about five minutes into the frame with a power play goal, but the home side was unable to find their equalizer despite tremendous pressure in the last five minutes.

Observations:

This Capitals team is simply not as good as last year's model.  They are sloppy and inconsistent and seem to think that they can just coast by and win games on talent alone.  They only have a sense of urgency when they are losing, and that is not a characteristic of championship teams.  I am very discouraged.

Michal Neuvirth cost his team the game, and now has not won in nearly a month.  This is the NHL.  Soft goals cannot happen, and the first Avalanche goal was about as soft as a roll of Charmin Ultra toilet paper.  Neuvirth is too good to keep playing like this, but Semyon Varlamov has been an order of magnitude better recently.  Boudreau has got to give Varly the job for now.

Where is Alex Ovechkin?  He shows up for one play a night and makes a contribution, and then vanishes and does little the rest of the game.  Ovechkin is struggling mightily by his standards and only has 2 goals in his last 13 games...ouch.  Plus, Sidney Crosby is making him look like a small child in the points race.

That's all for now.  Caps are right back at it tomorrow night in New York to take on the Rangers.  Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Neuvirth In

Michal Neuvirth has been announced as the starter for tonight's game.  It was thought that Semyon Varlamov would mind the nets.

Check back later for final lineup corrections due to the flu bug sweeping the locker room.

Gameday: vs. Colorado, Dec. 11

The Capitals will once again attempt to end their losing streak tonight when the welcome the Colorado Avalanche and Tomas Fleischmann to Verizon Center.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to start for the Caps in goal.

A flu bug has hit the locker room and several players were unable to practice yesterday.  These players included Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Brooks Laich, and John Carlson, and Mike Green.  The loss of any one of these guys would be a hard pill to swallow, so hopefully they have recovered overnight.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gameday: vs. Florida, Dec. 9

The Capitals welcome the Florida Panthers to Verizon Center tonight in a Southeast Division clash.  The Capitals are trying to bust out of a three game losing streak and get the bitter taste out of their mouths from that debacle on Monday night against the Maple Leafs.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to make the start in nets for Bruce Boudreau.  The young russian is 4-1 since returning from a groin injury the day before Thanksgiving.

Bruce Boudreau figures to scratch DJ King from the lineup tonight and re-insert Dave Steckel.  The loss of Jeff Schultz to a broken thumb means that John Erskine will return to the lineup after sitting on Monday.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Rapid Rewind might be late...finals week here at school.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Schultz Out

Coach Bruce Boudreau revealed in his postgame press conference tonight that Jeff Schultz has a broken thumb and will miss 4-6 weeks.  The good news just keeps on coming.

Rapid Rewind: Caps Stink Up the Joint

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the worst teams in the NHL.

They are only three points out of last place in the East.

And the Washington Capitals found a way to lose to them.

The Capitals opened the scoring with a Mathieu Perrault tally 3 minutes into the game on a nice pass from Tom Poti.  But the Leafs tied the game on a Clarke MacArthur power play strike nine minutes later.  Mike Knuble scored a power play goal of his own to break another lengthly scoring drought three minutes after that to give the Capitals a 2-1 advantage heading into the second period.  In the second frame, the Capitals took control of the contenst (or so it seemed).  Perrault scored another goal on a nice spin move to make it 3-1 before Alex Ovechkin roared down the wing and scored a beautiful goal that rang the iron before finding the back of the net on Gustavsson.  The Caps kept their lead until five minutes into the third period when Mikhail Grabovski scored on a shot from the slot.  The Caps managed to generate many chances in the rest of the period but were simply unable to finish, setting the stage for an improbable comeback.  The wheels came off inside the 17 minute mark when Tim Brent (WHO THE HELL IS TIM BRENT?) and MacArthur scored again within 59 seconds of each other to tie and silencing the Verizon Center crowd.  In overtime, the Capitals were flat and lazy are were lucky that the Leafs didn't convert on any of their many chances.  Grabovski scored again on a beautiful move in the shootout and all three Capitals shooters were stoned to send the home team to the showers with a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.

Observations:

YUCK.  Your Washington Capitals are playing lazy, passive hockey and they are paying the consequences in spades, with three consecutive losses to poor or average teams.  They are waiting for the game to come to them if they get a lead, not going in for the kill like they did last year.  This is the NHL...you should be able to run up the score, Bruce.

This is starting to make me really, really nervous.  The Capitals, top to bottom, are clearly the class of the NHL on paper and are simply not getting it done.  Top of the East or not, the fans and the team has come to expect more, and right now, it's just not happening.

Alex Ovechkin has got to step it up.  I don't care if he scored a nice goal, he should score three nice goals.  This is the best offensive player in the world over the last 3 seasons, and he is nothing short of mediocre at the moment.  I thought he was coming out of his slump 2 weeks ago; I was wrong.  It's really disappointing to watch.

The Caps have three days to let this one stew before taking on the Panthers on Thursday night.  If they lose that one, somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.

Gameday: vs. Toronto, Dec. 6

The Capitals welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Verizon Center tonight as they try and shake a bad week and get back in the win column.

Michal Neuvirth is back in goal tonight after Semyon Varlamov played on Saturday, and the goalie carousel picks up speed once more.

The Maple Leafs will counter with Jonas Gutavsson.

No lineup changes are expected from Bruce Boudreau.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gameday: vs. Atlanta, Dec. 4

The surging Atlanta Thrashers and Dustin Byfuglien journey to Verizon Center tonight to take on the Capitals.

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal for the Caps, and the Thrashers will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.

No lineup changes are expected for the Capitals, as Tom Poti will likely sit again with his "lower body" injury.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Big L in Big D

The Capitals fel to the Dallas Stars tonight by a score of 2-1.  With the loss, the Caps snapped their four game winning streak, but maintained first place in the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference.

Tonight's game was marked by Andrew Raycroft, who stopped 37 Capitals shots and effectively stole the game for his team.  The two sides battled to a scoreless first 33 minutes before Mike Ribiero buried a rebound on a power play (the last of four consecutive) to give the Stars a one goal advantage.  The Capitals applied constant pressure throughout the rest of the second period and first half of the third period before they finally broke through on a power play of their own, with Mike Knuble cashing a beautiful cross ice pass from Mike Green.  But the Stars found their winner 20 seconds later off the stick of Brandon Segal who flipped a knuckle puck past Michal Neuvirth high blocker.  The Caps buzzed Raycroft for the rest of the game, but had a potential tying goal waved off due to goalie interference with 8 seconds left and were unable to find their equalizer before time expired.

Obeservations:

Yawn.  The Caps were tired after a big game in St. Louis last night and it clearly showed.  Their passing was lackluster and they whiffed on several open shots.  Good to get home and rest a day before the next game; they need it.

Alex Ovechkin's goal drought extends to 10 games.  Now I'm a bit worried.  He's shooting, always a good sign, but maybe defenses and goalies are just catching up to him.

Michal Neuvirth cost the Caps this one.  The winning goal was a total floater that would have required very little other than a tap to turn away.  Mike failed to do that.

Next game is saturday in the Booth against Atlanta.  Game time is 7 P.M.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gameday: at Dallas, December 2

The Capitals travel to the Lone Star state tonight to take on the Dallas Stars for the one and only time this season.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to make the start in goal for Bruce Boudreau's team.  Neuvirth has yielded the net to Semyon Varlamov over the last four games.

Scott Hannan will make his Capitals debut tonight.  Bruce Boudreau has not yet exposed who will sit in order to make room for the Capitals' newest addition.

Puck drops 8:37-ish.  Check back later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Knock Off Blues

The Capitals secured their first victory in St. Louis tonight in 14 years, defeating the Blues by a score of 4-1 and exorcising, at least temporarily, the demons of Jaroslav Halak.

The Capitals opened the scoring on a beautiful passing play that saw Brooks Laich bury a Nicklas Backstrom rebound off of Halak's right pad with a man advantage.  Boyd Gordon extended the advantage with a wild shot in front of the net that Halak put into his own net, the second time in three weeks he has scored on himself.  Semyon Varlamov made several excellent saves throughout the first and second periods, but finally conceded a goal 19 minutes into the middle frame off the stick of Alexander Steen.  The third period saw excellent action both ways, and Nicklas Backstrom was able to convert on a rebound from a Mike Knuble slapshot in front of the net 7 minutes in.  Varlamov was terrific throughout the rest of the game, making huge save after huge save, and Nicklas Backstrom closed out the scoring with an empty netter with about 30 seconds left.

Observations:

Alex Ovechkin is becoming Sidney Crosby, and vice versa.  Ovechkin is looking to pass first, and he is doing it very, very well.  He had a beautiful assist on Backstrom's empty netter and although he did not get an assist on Backstrom's first goal, his pass out of pressure enabled John Carlson to hand the puck off to Knuble.  As long as the Caps are winning, and Ovechkin is getting chances, I'm not too worried about his lack of goals.  Not yet.

Semyon Varlamov: Wow! The young Russian has been nothing short of brilliant over the last 4 games, and tonight was no different. Varly made several stellar saves in big moments and helped to give his team a much needed victory.  He is taking the number one job back from Michal Neuvirth.

An overall excellent win - in a tough building against a tough, proud team who has many things to prove this year.

The Caps are right back after it tomorrow night in Dallas.  Game time is scheduled for 8:30 P.M.

Gameday: at St. Louis, December 1

The Caps travel to Scottrade center tonight to take on the Blues for their first meeting with Jaro Halak since the Slovak ended their playoffs last year.

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal for the Caps, his fourth consecutive tap on the pads.

Scott Hannan will not play tonight; he will be a healthy scratch and will make his debut tomorrow in Dallas.

Puck drops 8:07-ish.  Check back later.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flash Traded to Colorado

Tomas Fleischmann has been traded to Colorado this afternoon in exchange for defenseman Scott Hannan.

More as it becomes available.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rapid Rewind: From Russia, With Love

The Capitals blew out the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon by a score of 6-0.  The story of the game was, once again, Alexander Semin, who recorded another had trick, and Semyon Varlamov, who had his first shutout since shutting out...the Lightning, last November.

The Capitals started the scoring early with a John Carlson slapshot from the top of the circles when the game was barely three minutes old.  In the second period, John Erskine continued his run of improbable scoring prowess when he blasted his own 60-footer past a stunned Mike Smith with the period four and half minutes old.  That set the stage for Alexander Semin's performance, who recorded a natural hat trick in just over four minutes, including two on the power play to put the game out of reach for the visitors and ensure the Capitals two crucial division points.  Tom Poti closed out the scoring in the third period with a slapshot goal of his own.  Semyon Varlamov made 17 stops in the victory.

Observations:

That's more like it.  The Caps shook off a cople of rough performances in the last week and built on their win on Tuesday in every way tonight.  Crisp passes, finishing checks, and killer instinct were on full display for the boys in red.  A marvelous effort in all ways.

Semyon Varlamov is going to make this goalie battle very interesting.  Varly played well and is going to make it hard for Bruce Boudreau to sit him if he keeps playing like this.  And, most importantly, he is showing no ill effects from his groin injury.

The Caps defense continues to play well without Mike Green, who missed his second consecutive game with an "undisclosed" (read: shoulder, as always) upper body injury, clearing the few rebounds Varlamov conceded and blocking shots.  The return of Tom Poti has been huge for this unit.

That's all for now: Next game is scheduled for Sunday at 5 P.M. against Carolina at Verizon Center.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Varly Returns In Style

The Capitals defeated the Hurricanes tonight by a score of 3-2 in Raleigh.  Alex Ovechkin tallied three assists and Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals, but the story of the night was Semyon Varlamov, who was excellent in his return from a groin pull.

The Capitals once again almost found a way to let the game get away from them, however.  Washington opened the scoring in the first period with Nicklas Backstrom cashing an Ovechkin rebound 13 minutes into the frame.  The two superstars hooked up again barely a minute into the second period with Ovechkin dropping a neat pass to Backstrom in the corner who walked out and slid a shot past Carolina goalie Justin Peters.  The remainder of the second period saw furious action and great saves by both goaltenders.  In the third, however, the Capitals were thoroughly outworked for the first half of the frame, first conceding a Joni Pitkanen tip-in goal and then the equalizer off of Eric Staal's stick with the man advantage.  The Capitals were gifted a power play right after Staal's strike and Alex Ovechkin took advantage of a weak clearing attempt to blast the puck towards the net; Brooks Laich re-directed the shot for his first goal in almost a month and the eventual game-winner.  The Hurricanes pulled Peters in another attempt to equalize, but were thwarted by Varlamov repeatedly in the dying moments.

Observations:

From Russia, with love.  Semyon Varlamov was as advertised tonight, making several stellar stops throughout the game and could not be faulted on either goal he let in.  His reflexes were tremendous and he showed no ill effects of his groin injury.  If only Varly could stay healthy.

Welcome back, Alex Ovechkin.  The Captain had his best game in awhile tonight, finally awakening from his awful slump.  Though he didn't score, he tallied three helpers and finally started shooting, with 10 for the game.  He also had five hits, including a thunderous open-ice knockdown of Chad LaRose in the first.  The goals will come; he's pretty good.

Two days after his best game of the season, Tomas Fleischmann disappeared again tonight.  He had an assist, but did not have any real impact on the play.  Boudreau limited him to 11:20 of ice time, his season low.  Flash has skills, but needs to improve fast, or he could be watching from the press box alot more often.

That's all for now.  Next game is Friday at home against the Lightning and Steven Stamkos, who continues to score at a truly absurd pace.  Game time is scheduled for 5 P.M.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Out

Mike Green was a last minute scratch tonight due to his upper body injury.

Gameday: at Carolina, Nov. 24

The Capitals travel to Raleigh tonight to take on the Hurricanes in the teams' second meeting this season.  Michal Neuvirth shut out the Canes in their last meeting, a 3-0 Washington victory.

Neurvirth will not start tonights contest, however.  That honor goes to Semyon Varlamov, who makes his return to active duty tonight after almost five weeks missed with another groin injury.

Mike Green is working his way through another undisclosed injury, but stated at the morning skate that he will play tonight.  Crisis averted...for now.

Mike Knuble is not expected to rejoin the lineup tonight.  That means that both Boyd Gordon and Dave Steckel will receive jerseys.

Puck drops 7:07ish.  Check back later.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practice: Nov. 23

Today is Nicklas Backstrom's 23rd birthday.  A very happy birthday to Nick, although I highly doubt that anything he ingested last night is still in his system after today's practice.

Tom Poti and Mike Knuble both skated and are considered questionable for tomorrow's game.

More later on the goaltending situation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Blasted by Devils; Green Hurt

The Capitals fell to the New Jersey Devils tonight by a score of 5-0, the second time in three games they have been blanked by that score.

The Devils started fast and took full advantage of a Brooks Laich holding call to score on the power play only six minutes into the contest, with Patrik Elias tipping a point drive past Braden Holtby.  Holtby was announced as the starter after Michal Neuvirth re-aggravated a lower body injury during the morning skate.  Jason Arnott scored a goal on a wraparound that caught Braden Holtby way out of position halfway through the frame before Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby was hauled down on a breakaway by John Erskine.  Tedenby converted the ensuing penalty shot easily to put his team up by 3 heading into the break.  The beginning of the second period saw the Caps apply excellent pressure before conceding another goal to Arnott; again catching the rookie goalie Holtby way out of position, effectively putting the game out of reach.  Dainius Zubrus closed out the scoring with a shot from the slot eight minutes into the second.  The final frame was uneventful, as the Devils locked down to get Johan Hedberg a shutout.

Observations:

YUCK.  I don't think I've ever been this disgusted with a Caps performance in a long time.  Other games the Capitals have lost this season have been against good teams, like the Bruins and Flyers, and okay teams like the Thrashers.  The Devils are the worst team in the league, without the best goalie of all time and best player, and the Caps were nothing short of awful.  Bag skate them tomorrow.

The Caps may have given up four even strength goals, but the top line was not on the ice for one.  That's a nice change of scenery.  At least they didn't give up when the Caps were down big.

Mike Green left the bench halfway through the third period and did not return.  Uh-oh.

Semyon Varlamov was on the bench backing up Holtby tonight; his presence likely means that Holtby will be sent down to Hershey (where he belongs) tomorrow.  Thank god.

Caps face Carolina in Raleigh on Wednesday.  Gonna have to be a big improvement if they have any prayer of slowing down the red hot Eric Staal and Hurricanes.  Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Holtby In

Braden Holtby has been announced as the starter for tonights game.  It was thought after the morning skate that Neuvirth would start.

Gameday: at New Jersey, Nov. 22

The Capitals journey to Newark today to take on the New Jersey Devils, who have plummeted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference due to their awful start.  The Capitals already beat the Devils 7-2 this season, at the home opener at Verizon Center.

Tonights game at The Rock will feature Michal Neuvirth in nets for the Caps.  The Devils will likely counter with Johan Hedberg, as Martin Brodeur is out with an elbow injury.

Mike Knuble and Tom Poti are both still out for the Caps, as of now.  No lineup changes are expected since the last game.

Puck drops 7:07ish.  Check back later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gameday: at Atlanta, Nov. 19

The Capitals journey to Atlanta tonight to take on the Thrashers for the second time in under a week.  The Caps won last week in DC by a 6-4 count.

Boyd Gordon and DJ King will sit out tonight as healthy scratches.

Tomas Fleischmann will make his return after being a healthy scratch last game.

The Marcus Johansson with Alex Ovechkin experiment has ended.  Ovie will be re-united with Nick Backstrom and Mike Knuble tonight.  It is still unclear as of now who will play with the second line; Johansson or Fleischmann.

Braden Holtby gets the start for the Caps tonight is goal.  Atlanta will counter with Ondrej Pavelec.

Puck drops 7:37ish.  I have a game of my own tonight so I may not be back in time to watch the beginning of the game.  As a result, the Rapid Rewind may be delayed a bit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Pull It Out vs. Sabres

The Capitals tonight once again almost managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but pumped the brakes fast enough to pull out a victory at Verizon Center.

Once again, the Capitals tallied the first goal of the game as Nicklas Backstrom took a beautiful pass from Alex Semin on a 5-on-3 man advantage and buried it backdoor on Ryan Miller to put the Caps up at the 13 minute mark.  The Capitals continued to press and dominated the Sabres in every facet of the game for the remainder of the period, and Matt Bradley was rewarded with another tally at the 17 minute mark, giving the Caps a 2-0 lead heading into the break.  At the  beginning of the 2nd period, Dave Steckel continued his recent stellar play and scored bar-down on Miller, extending the advantage to 3-0.  Then the wheels came off for the Caps, as they allowed two goals in just under a minute, first on a Derek Roy power play strike and then a Jordan Leopold tally that was a product of an atrocious defensive breakdown by the Caps.  With the capacity crowd at Verizon Center quieted, the Sabres blitzed the Caps for the rest of the 2nd period, with Michal Neuvirth having to come up with multiple huge stops to keep his team in the lead.  In the third, the Caps rebounded nicely, and controlled the clock with crisp passing and good forechecks.  Alex Semin closed out the scoring with a 180 foot empty netter with about 1.3 seconds left.

Observations:

Marcus Johnansson was benched for the latter part of the third period, although Bruce Boudreau was pleased with his play.  It is likely that Boudreau wanted to keep his faceoff specialists in the game, getting them minutes with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.  Boudreau would not comment as to who would pivot the top line next game.

Although he was held pointless, Ovechkin played much better this game.  He looked rested and refreshed and finished his checks with authority.  His feet were always moving, a nice change from the last couple of games.  A solid game for the Great 8.

Karl Alzner is sneakily becoming really good.  On a blue line full of offensive stars such as Mike Green and John Carlson, Alzner has stepped up his defensive play, using his size very well and blocking shots.  He has also picked up three points over the last week.  Maybe he can live up to his billing, after all.

Next game is in Atlanta on Friday.  Game time is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gameday: vs. Buffalo, Nov. 17

The Capitals welcome the Sabres to Verizon Center tonight for a rematch of last Saturday's game, which the Sabres took in OT, 3-2.

Coach Bruce Boudreau has shaken up his lines bigtime for the contest.  Nick Backstrom will skate with Alex Semin and Brooks Laich on the second line, while Marcus Johansson moves to the top spot with Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble.  Tomas Fleischmann will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season.  Ouch.

The Caps are expected to start Michal Neuvirth once again in goal.  The Sabres will counter with Ryan Miller.

Puck drop is 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Find a Way vs. Thrash

The Capitals pulled out a very wild victory tonight over the Atlanta Thrashers by a score of 6-4 in a game characterized by sloppy play by both teams and crazy bounces.  With the win, the Caps extended their home win streak against Atlanta to nine consecutive contests, dating back to the 2008-2009 season.

Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring for the home side with a wrist shot just 1:30 into the opening frame that Atlanta goalie Chris Mason stopped initially, but then batted in to his own cage.  Mike Green scored next for the Caps on a power play, firing a shot past Mason to extend the lead to two.  But the Thrashers continued to press, and scored a power play goal of their own off the stick of Rich Peverley to cut the deficit to one.  The Caps came right back, with Ovechkin roaring down the left wing and firing a gorgeous saucer pass across the seam to Alex Semin, who made no mistake with the puck, deking Mason out of the goal before depositing the easy backhand tally.  The teams headed for the their respective dressing rooms with Washington up 3-1.  The second period caught the Caps on their heels, as Andrew Ladd scored from a seemingly impossible angle with the period barely a minute old.  Once again, however, Washington countered immediately, with Matt Hendricks burying a Mike Green rebound and chasing Mason from the Atlanta net.  This time it was the Thrashers' turn to answer, and they did so with a Bryan Little goal less than a minute later.  After an epic fight between Eric Boulton and John Erskine, for which Boulton took an extra roughing minor, the Caps had a power play chance and an opportunity to put distance between them and their opponents.  But Andrew Ladd stole the puck from Alex Ovechkin during a neutral zone regroup and walked in alone on Neuvirth, who made the initial stop, but conceded the equalizer after the puck bounced off his helmet and fell to Little, who pushed it in on his backhand.  The Caps fell apart after that marker, constantly turning the puck over in their own zone, and were lucky to make it to the second intermission tied.  After a tense beginning to the third period, John Erskine took advantage of a failed Atlanta clearing attempt to blast home a 65 foot slapshot that proved to be the game winner at the 13:11 mark.  Dave Steckel closed out the scoring with an empty-netter from center ice at 19:23.

Observations:

Player of the game: Dave Steckel.  The fact that he was not selected for a star is embarrassing.  Stecks was 14 for 17 on faceoffs and was the Caps' best penalty killer.  He was blocking shots and created very well on the offensive side of the puck.  It will be hard for Bruce Boudeau to pull him from the lineup after Boyd Gordon returns if he continues to play like this.

Overall, another lackluster performance from the Great 8.  Ovie was held by his coach to under 18 minutes of ice time for the third consecutive game, the first time that has happened in over three years.  His goal was pure luck, and although his assist was very nice, Ovechkin has had a bad couple of games, lacking responsibility in his own zone and giving up on the play too early.

Michal Neuvirth may be hitting the proverbial rookie wall.  The young Czech has been terrific all season, and still has tremendous potential, but now has not allowed fewer than three goals in two weeks. He still picked up the win, and had some nice saves, but he would definitely like some goals back.  The return of Semyon Varlamov will help him.

A final note unrelated to today's game - Semyon Varlamov started for Hershey today and picked up the victory.  It is expected that he will rejoin his teammates tomorrow and may start Wednesday.

The Caps will most likely enjoy a day off tomorrow before returning to practice on Tuesday.  Next game is scheduled for Wednesday, when the Sabres come to town.  Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Gameday: vs. Atalnta, Nov. 14

The Caps welcome the Thrashers to Verizon Center today for their second of three consecutive Sunday afternoon matinees.

The only exepected change for the Caps in their lineup is Michal Neuvirth in goal, as Bruce Boudreau changed his plan yesterday afternoon as to last night's starter in Buffalo.

Puck drops 5:07-ish.  Check back later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Sabres End Streak

The Capitals were lucky to get out of HSBC Arena tonight with a point, as the Sabres defeated Washington 3-2 in overtime on a Thomas Vanek goal.

The Caps opened the scoring with a bomb off the stick of Karl Alzner after Alexander Semin collected a flubbed clearing attempt by the Sabres and dished it to the wide-open rookie on the point.  The Sabres would find their equalizer of the stick of Steve Montador halfway through the second frame off a similar play, as the top line failed to clear the puck and suffered the consequences.  The Sabres took the lead five minutes later on a power play goal by Thomas Vanek after Tom Fleischmann was sent off for one of three double minors the Caps would take on the night.  The visitors battled hard in the third period, but were continually denied by Ryan Miller, who made his return after missing six games.  But the Caps were eventually rewarded, as Jason Chimera found Nick Backstrom alone in the slot, who ripped a shot bar down on Miller to equalize for the Capitals.  After Backstrom took another high sticking double minor, the Caps were able to kill off the ensuing power play into overtime; however, Vanek struck again with exactly one minute left in the extra frame as he dangled through the entire Washington defense and deposited a backhander into the cage for the game-winner.

Observations:

A really lackluster game by the Caps.  They lacked production from their top line and looked out of sorts all night.  Better get the ship righted quickly, with a contest tomorrow afternoon.

Braden Holtby was great.  The rookie was the reason the Caps were able to salvage a point out of the contest.  Holtby looked calm and made several spectacular glove saves throughout the game to keep his team in it.

Caps are right back at it tomorrow in DC as they welcome the Thrashers to Verizon Center.  Game time is scheduled for 5 P.M.

Gameday: at Buffalo, Nov. 13

The Caps are in Buffalo tonight to take on the Sabres, who are winless at home so far this season.

Michal Neuvirth will start for the Caps and coach Bruce Boudreau.  Neuvirth stopped 38 shots last time out against Tampa Bay.

Boyd Gordon is out after suffering a leg injury on Thursday.  He will be replaced in the lineup by Dave Steckel.

The Sabres will counter in goal with Ryan Miller, who makes his return after a six game absence due to an unspecified lower-body injury.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Blast Bolts

The Caps again rode stellar play by Alexander Semin to a victory over the Lightning tonight, recording a 6-3 decision.  Semin had five points, including the game winner among his third period hat trick.

Once again, the Caps fell behind early and conceded the first goal of the game to Teddy Purcell, who drove the net and cashed a rebound halfway through the first frame.  Early in the second, Tom Poti, playing in his first contest in over two weeks, potted a Semin rebound to tie the score before Mike Knuble scored again, this time on a nifty backhand from behind the goal line, and the second period ended with the Caps up 2-1.  But the Lightning would not go away, finding their equalizer on a power play off the stick of Ryan Malone.  The Caps continued to press, and scored sixteen seconds into their only power play of the game, as Backstrom found Semin alone in the slot, who calmly ripped a wrister top corner on Dan Ellis.  Semin struck again four minutes later, again found alone in the slot by Nicklas Backstrom, ripping a one-timer past Ellis.  Two minutes later, the inevitable happened, as superstar Steven Stamkos tucked a snapshot under Michal Neuvirth's crossbar to cut the deficit to one.  Just three minutes later however, Alex Ovechkin collected took a feed from Semin and scored a goal of his own on a low wrist shot to all but secure the victory for the Caps.  With Ellis pulled, Semin scored a ninety foot goal to net his hat-trick late in the contest, closing the scoring.

Observations:

Bruce Boudreau decided to re-unite the super line of Ovie, Sasha, and Backy about halfway through the second period, and man did it pay off.  Mike Knuble is also showing good chemistry with Brooks Laich and Tom Fleischmann, so look for these lines to stick for at least the next couple of games.

Boyd Gordon only skated 1:27 and did not return after the first period, apparently injuring his foot or ankle during an icing race.  Tough blow for Gordo and the Caps, who will now rely on David Steckel as their top faceoff man.  No knock on Stecks, but Gordon is key to the Caps' success in the circle just as much, if not more.

Nick Backstrom had another great game.  Four assists, two blocks, almost two minutes of shorthanded ice time.  He is really starting to find his groove and is putting his name into the top four or five overall players in the NHL with his continued defensive improvement along with his gaudy offensive stats.

That's all for now.  Next game is Saturday in Buffalo against the struggling Sabres, who are still without Vezina winner Ryan Miller.  Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Gameday: vs. Tampa Bay, Nov. 11

The Capitals welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to Verizon Center tonight for the first of sex meetings between the division rivals this season.  The Lightning are in second place in the division, riding the impressive play of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

Michal Neuvirth gets the start in goal for the Caps coming off his victory in New York Tuesday.  The Lightning will counter with Dan Ellis, coming off a shutout in his last outing.

Tom Poti took the morning skate and is considered "probable" for the Caps tonight, according to Bruce Boudreau.  If Poti plays, look for Tyler Sloan to sit.

DJ King is expected to remain in the lineup for tonights game, which means Dave Steckel will be a healthy scratch once more.

Puck drops 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Outlast Blueshirts

The Capitals defeated the Rangers tonight in a tense back-and-forth game that saw the lead exchange three times before the Capitals pulled ahead halfway through the third period.  Brooks Laich, returning from an upper body injury, had two goals and an assist for the Caps.

The Rangers opened the scoring early, as Brian Boyle ripped a shot high glove past Michal Neuvirth off a faceoff about four minutes in.  The Caps were able to sustain offensive pressure, but were continually stymied by Henrik Lundqvist, until Laich redirected an Alex Semin shot on the power play to tie the score.  Boyle scored again three minutes later, this time on the power play, and the teams went to the dressing room with the Rangers up 2-1.  The Caps found their equalizer off the stick of John Erskine, who crushed a slapshot top corner on Lundqvist early in the middle frame.  Not to be outdone, Derek Boogaard, (yes, him), who had not scored a goal in 234 games, dangled Tyler Sloan on a botched keep-in attempt and blasted his own slapshot past Neuvirth on an odd-man rush to put the Rangers up less than a minute later.  Around the nine minute mark, Mike Knuble finally got off the schneid with a beautiful finish off a spectacular end-to-end performance by Alex Ovechkin to tie the game, and the frame ended in a tie.  Halfway through the third period, Matt Bradley dug out a loose puck behind the net and fed it in front to a diving Matt Hendricks, who buried it for the eventual game-winning tally.  The Rangers buzzed Neuvirth's cage for the remaining minutes, but the Czech rookie stood tall once more before Brooks Laich iced the game with an empty netter.

Observations:

Mike Green continues to prove his all-around game is rapidly improving.  No. 52 was outstanding all night, making smart passes, solid hits, and blocking shots.  Greener gets better and better with every game and is once again solidifying his status as perhaps the NHL's best rearguard.

Mike Knuble scoring is huge.  With his confidence back, Bruce Boudreau will likely move Knuble back to the top like with Ovie and Backstrom, breaking up the super line and balancing the Caps' attack more with Semin on the second line.

Michal Neuvirth is gonna be really, really good.  Like, awesome.  The rookie could not be faulted on any goal he allowed, and rebounded brilliantly after yielding goals each time.  He also made several spectacular saves in the dying moments of the game.  Outdueling Henrik Lundqvist is no small feat.  Props to Neuvy.

Next game is Thursday night against Tampa Bay and Steven Stamkos.  Game time is 7 P.M.

Gameday: at New York Rangers, Nov. 9

From the morning skate:

Michal Neuvirth will start for the Caps in nets after receiving a night off against the Flyers on Sunday.  Neuvirth will be opposed, to no one's surprise, by Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

Brooks Laich will play after missing practice yesterday and the third period of Sunday's game.  Laich will return to his normal spot on the second line.

Tom Poti is being called a game time decision at this point for tonight.  Bruce Boudreau said he will not know until likely after warmup whether Poti will be able to go.

On the Rangers side, star winger Marian Gaborik will not play tonight.  There was some thought that he would return from a separated shoulder, but he has not recovered significantly enough.  Good news for the Caps.

Puck drops 7:40-ish.  Check back later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Practice Update: Nov. 8

Brooks Laich suffered an upper body injury in yesterday's game and did not play in the third period, nor did he practice with his teammates today.  However, the forward is expected to make the trip to New York and may play against the Rangers tomorrow night.  The injury is not considered serious.

Tom Poti practiced with the team and looks like about "an 80% shot" to play tomorrow.  He will go on the trip.

Semyon Varlamov took shots during practice and worked extra after practice on the ice as he continues to rehab his perpetually wonky groin.  Varly may go on a conditioning stint soon to Hershey, and hopes to be back in net for the Caps sometime in the next week to ten days.

That's all for now.  Check back tomorrow.

Practice: Nov. 8th

The Caps will be on the ice for practice this morning at 11 before heading to New York this afternoon in preparation for tomorrow night's game with the Rangers.

Updates on the conditions of Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and others to come after practice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Ride Special Teams to Victory

The Caps defeated the Flyers tonight in a game marked by excellent goaltending at both ends of the ice.  Flyers rookie Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 stops as his bid failed to become the first Flyers goalie since 1970 to win seven consecutive starts. At the other end of the ice, Braden Holtby was solid for the Caps in his first NHL start, making key saves when he needed to.

Nikolai Zherdev opened the scoring for the visitors when he ripped a shot past Holtby from the high slot after a nifty pass from Andreas Nodl ten minutes in to the first period.  The Caps responded with an Eric Fehr tally late in the frame to send the teams to their locker rooms tied up at one.  In the second, the Flyers took the lead again on a Ville Leino goal.  Leino was then sent off for a high stick, and it took the Caps only 24 seconds on the ensuing man advantage to strike, as Alexander Semin extended his goal-scoring streak with a power play marker.  The rest of the second period and third period were scoreless, and both offenses were robbed by timely stops by the goaltenders.  The Capitals were also successful on both of their penalty kills during that time frame.  Late in the third period, Flyers stalwart Chris Pronger took a double-minor for high sticking, but the Caps were unsuccessful on their four-minute power play.  However, right at the end of regulation, the Flyers took another penalty, and thirty seconds into overtime, Mike Green skated calmly to the top of the circles and picked the top corner for the game-winner.

Observations:

Nick Backstrom is starting to heat up.  The Swedish pivot has had a rough start to the season, but is finding his groove on the Caps' high powered top line.  Backstrom posted a two-assist game tonight, and many more are sure on the horizon.

The Capitals have an embarrassment of wealth at the goaltending position.  Braden Holtby was excellent in his first career NHL start, and proved to Caps fans that if Michal Neuvirth or Semyon Varlamov gets traded, there will be a solid goalie between the pipes for the Caps for awhile.  The Caps have three young, good goalies, and few (if any) teams in the NHL can say as such.

As goes Mike Green, so go the Caps.  Since the blueliner returned to the lineup, the team in 6-1, and the power play has finally started to click with him back as the quarterback.  Green continues to prove that he is the best defenseman in the NHL, and hopefully the Norris Trophy voters will notice it this year.

Next game is in New York on Tuesday night against the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist at the World's Most Famous Arena.  Game time is scheduled for 7 P.M.

Gameday: vs. Philadelphia, November 7th

The Capitals continue their homestand today with an afternoon game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

It is expected that Braden Holtby will receive his first NHL start as to relieve Michal Neuvirth, who has played in all of the Caps' games this year, and looked tired last time out.

Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will start for Philadelphia.  Bobrovsky has won six straight starts and is the main reason for the Flyers' strong start.

Marcus Johansson has recovered from his injury and been returned to Hershey.

Puck drop is 5:07-ish.  Check back later.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Caps Almost Blow It (Again)

In an extremely odd game tonight at Verizon Center tonight, the Capitals escaped an embarrassing loss with a 5-3 win over the Bruins after once again watching a multiple-goal lead slip away in the third period.

Tyler Sloan opened the scoring for the Caps a minute in to the 2nd period, closely followed by Mike Green, who scored a goal for the third consecutive game.  Alexander Semin continued his torrid start with a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0 at the 2nd intermission, and once again, the Capitals had an extended power play to enter the third period, and had chased Tim Thomas from the Bruins' cage.  And once again, they fired blanks, and let the Bruins back into the game.  Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton scored 55 seconds apart on consecutive power plays to bring the B's within one before Shawn Thornton took advantage of another long shift by Alex Ovechkin to tie the score at 3.  In response, Bruce Boudreau yanked Michal Neuvirth and replaced him with fellow rookie Braden Holtby, who had yet to see NHL game action.  With six minutes left, rookie defenseman John Carlson played hero again, scoring the eventual game-winning goal on a slapshot from the top of the circle off a faceoff win, taking new Bruins tender Tuukka Rask totally off guard.  Alex Ovechkin closed out the scoring after Boston had pulled Rask for his eighth goal of the year, and the Caps pulled out a key win.

Observations:

Mike Knuble is getting close.  Knuble was plus-two on the night and played well in the corners, and was a physical presence in front of the net, which is when he is his best.  The breakout game is coming soon.

Alex Ovechkin has got to shorten his shifts.  Most nights, his average shift length is over a minute, and tonight was no exception.  That, quite frankly, is way too long for someone to be out on the ice, especially at the ridiculously high pace Ovechkin plays at.  It's beginning to cost the team goals, as was the case tonight.

John Carlson has been a real find, eh?  Captain America was a force all night, playing strong defensively, blocking shots, and scoring the big goal for his team when they needed it.  A real solid game from Carlson, and it is sure to be one of many in the years to come in Washington for him.

That's all for tonight.  Next game is Sunday at home against the Flyers and Chris Pronger.  Game time is 5:00 PM.

Gameday: vs. Boston, November 5th

It looks like Michal Neuvirth will make his 12th start of the season tonight as the Boston Bruins pay a visit to Verizon Center.  The Bruins, to no ones surprise, will start Tim Thomas, who has allowed a ridiculous 5 goals in 7 starts (all wins).

Tom Poti will remain out, as will goaltender Semyon Varlamov, leaving Braden Holtby with the back-up duties for the Caps.  Brian Fahey's demotion to the AHL yesterday means it is likely that Tyler Sloan will return to the lineup after a two-game absence.  Marcus Johansson (hip flexor) will be a game-time decision.

Puck drops at 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rapid Rewind: Washington 5, Toronto 4 (SO)

Alexander Semin was the hero for the Capitals tonight, scoring the tying goal late in regulation and the clinching goal for the Capitals in the shootout, as they defeated the Maple Leafs, 5-4.

The Caps conceded the early lead on a goal by Nikolai Kulemin, but stormed back to take a 3-1 lead on goals by Mike Green, Jason Chimera and Tomas Fleischmann.  Heading into the third period, the Caps had the two goal lead and a minute and fifty seconds of power play time, but, like so many times so far on this young season, could not find the killer instinct that became a hallmark of theirs last season.  In response, Toronto silenced the raucous Verizon Center crowd with three goals in just over three minutes to take the 4-3 lead.  the Caps were gifted a power play on an awful call in front of the goal that sent Brett Lebda off, and Semin notched the equalizer on a brilliant display of stickwork.  In overtime, the Capitals hit two posts and were denied repeatedly by Jonas Gustavsson (29 saves) on a power play.  With the extra period completed with no further scoring, Alex Ovechkin and and Alexander Semin converted in the shootout, and Michal Neuvirth stopped both shots he faced, to send the Capitals to their second consecutive victory.

Some observations from tonights game:

Mike Knuble continued to struggle.  Big number 22 looked out of place once again and struggled to convert on his many chances.  Knuble is shooting alot, a good sign, but has remained snakebit in the goal category, having not scored since the first game of the season.

Alexander Semin has a set of magic hands.  Seriously.  His stickwork to secure the tying goal was incredible, he was active all night around the boards and in the corners, and his clinching shootout goal put a hole in the net twine.  One of his best all around games in awhile.  Kudos to Sasha.

Michal Neuvirth continues to impress.  Semyon Varlamov may not be out much longer than a week, but at this rate, it might not matter.  The newly crowned NHL rookie of the month could not be faulted on any of the goals and stood tall in the shootout and late in the third after the Caps had tied the game.

Next game is Friday at home against the always tough Bruins and Tim Thomas, who, in a miraculous turn of events, actually gave up a goal tonight (TWO!).

God night hockey fans.  Check back tomorrow afternoon for updates from practice.

Fahey Recalled

Brian Fahey has been recalled from Hershey (AHL) to fill the void left by injuries to Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan.  He will dress tonight and will presumably skate alongside John Erskine on the 3rd pairing.

Gameday: vs. Toronto, November 3rd

The Capitals will start Michal Neuvirth in nets tonight at home vs. the Maple Leafs.

Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan are still both out, leaving coach Bruce Boudreau with only five healthy defensemen (Green, Schultz, Alzner, Carlson, and Erskine).  Look for a call-up to be made before game time.

Puck drops at 7:07-ish.  Check back later.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 2nd

Little to report from practice today other than it looks like Alexander Semin will return to the second line for wednesday's game with the Maple Leafs.  He should play on the right side, centered by Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich on the left wing.  It also looks like Eric Fehr will return to his traditional spot on the third line after being a healthy scratch last game.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Practice Update

Both Brian Fahey and Mathieu Perrault have been re-assigned to Hershey of the AHL before today's practice.
Coach Bruce Boudreau was noncommittal on the status of defenseman Tom Poti; however Fahey's demotion could be a signal that Poti is ready to return for Wednesday's tilt with the Maple Leafs.

Monday, November 1st

The Caps will be on ice for a practice this morning at 10:30.  Updates on the conditions of Varlamov and Poti will come later in the day.