Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Capitals/Panthers Preview


Washington Capitals (21-23-7, 49 points)
at
Florida Panthers (19-23-10, 48 points)

Television: Comcast Sportsnet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 7:30 PM ET


The Caps head to the Sunshine state for the second game on their current three game road trip. It will be a return to the venue where they were thoroughly embarrassed almost three weeks ago by the last place Panthers 7-3.

After the Caps had won the first two match ups of the season, Florida seems to have the their number as of late, following up their dominating win in Miami with an equally strong effort in Washington January 20th. That 4-1 loss at home was demoralizing for the Caps as they had to live with the result throughout the week long All-Star break. It also came one night after an inspiring win at Carolina that seemed to be a turning point kind of win.

Washington will try to build on the solid effort they had in Ottawa to help them change their luck against the Panthers. Alex Ovechkin was spectacular in that game and he will look to extend his career long point scoring streak to 13 games. The Caps can expect to face Ed Belfour in goal as he has a 2-0-0 record with a 1.80 gaa against them this season.

The Panthers are coming off a game Tuesday night in which they were shut out by the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 in Pittsburgh. Speaking of the Penguins, TSN reported during an intermission in the Maple Leafs/Rangers game, that significant progress has been made in talks between the team and the city on a deal for a new arena. Although they made it clear that no deal has been reached yet, it looks as though the Penguins will stay where they belong.

As reported from Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir, Matt Bradley met the team in Miami and will be a game-time decision. Richard Zednik should also return to the lineup after missing 24 games with a sports hernia.

This is once again one of those must win games as a loss would drop the Capitals into last place in the Southeast Division.

Morning Thoughts


It's games such as these that show how bright the future is for the Washington Capitals. They outplayed one of the better teams in their conference despite still being shorthanded with injuries. The only thing you can be disappointed about from the game was the score. They controlled the action, especially during the third period, and had many quality chances to tie. Once again, the team needs to build on this momentum as they have another important game Thursday night in Florida. A win and they are still only a few points out of a playoff spot. A loss and they would fall into last place in the division and possibly 14th place in the conference. Now some hump-day morning thoughts:
  • After the game, coach Glen Hanlon said that it will be up to Zednik whether or not he will play Thursday night. He has been medically cleared to do so.
  • Alex Ovechkin now leads the NHL in goals with 32 and is second in points with 69, which is 10 points behind the leading Sidney Crosby. He is currently on pace for 111 points which would surpass his total from last season.
  • Don't look now but Kris Beech has put together back-to-back solid games. He followed up a goal against Carolina Saturday night with a beautiful assist last night. It was a nice individual play that involved winning a loose puck from veteran defenseman Wade Redden.
  • The Capitals lost for only the third time this season when their goaltender Olie Kolzig has faced 35 shots or more. His record now stands at 11-3-1 in these games.
Draft Pick Updates:
  • The Capitals 2005 first-round pick Joe Finley currently leads the North Dakota Fightning Sioux with a +13 defensive rating. The 19 year-old 6 foot 7 inch defenseman also has 1 goal and 1 assist on the season.
  • Michal Neuvirth, the 2006 second-round pick, currently leads the OHL with a .933 save percentage. He has posted a 19-6-1-1 record to go along with a 2.28 gaa and 4 shutouts.
  • The Fourth-round pick in 2006, Luke Lynes, has 21 goals and 24 assists but is -12 defensively for the OHL's Brampton Battalion.
  • Another 2006 Fourth-round pick Oskar Osala has 13 goals and 11 assists and is +9 defensively for the OHL's Mississauga IceDogs.
  • The 2005 Fourth-round pick Patrick McNeill has 17 goals and 24 assists and is +2 defensively.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Senators Squeek By

Washington Dominates 2nd and 3rd Periods, But Cannot Overcome 2-0 Hole
Ottawa Senators 3, Washington Capitals 2
Boxcore

There's not much you can do about a game such as this. Washington had every opportunity to tie the contest late in the third period, but the bounces didn't go their way and Ottawa survived to win their 13th out of their last 16 games.

Speaking of bounces, they definitely went Ottawa's way in the first period where, despite a defensively sound effort, the Senators found a way to get two goals past the frustrated Olie Kolzig. The first came on a shot from the point by captain Daniel Alfredsson that got through the traffic in front and into the back of the net. Kolzig was visibly upset over what seemed to be his own defenseman, Shaone Morrisonn, screening him on the play. Their second goal was another case of being in the right place at the right time as a Peter Schaefer shot deflected off the diving Mike Green directly to Jason Spezza who tapped the puck into the empty net for his 20th goal on the year.

The Capitals regrouped and controlled the action over the last forty minutes. They were able to kill off a 2 man disadvantage and should have had a short handed goal as the first penalty expired to Kris Beech. He was sent off on a breakaway following a Boyd Gordon blocked shot. But again the bounces didn't go the Caps way as the puck would not settle down for Beech and he was not able to get off a shot.

Alex Ovechkin was finally able to get Washington on the scoreboard nine minutes into the second period, as he followed up his original shot, which was blocked by defenseman Anton Volchenkov, and rifled the loose puck past Gerber, beating him to the seven hole (between the glove and pad). The goal brought a lot of accolades along with it. First, it extended Ovechkin's point streak to twelve games which is a new career high. Second, it extended his goal scoring streak to three games. And lastly, it put him back into the NHL lead in goals with his 32nd on the season.

However, a Lawrence Nycholat penalty just one minute later would hurt the Capitals as Danny Heatley would capitalize and knock home his 31st of the season to give the Senators a 3-1 advantage. Despite their excellent play in the period, the Caps would head to the locker room still trailing by two.

The third period saw the momentum swing even more into Washington's favor. A nice individual effort by Kris Beech on the forecheck, taking the puck away from Ottawa's star defender Wade Redden. Once he gained control he moved behind the Senators goal and found Donald Brashear wide open in front of the net for an easy finish and his 2nd goal on the year, cutting the deficit to 3-2. That would be as close as they would get as despite numerous quality scoring chances, including several with Kolzig pulled in the last minute, the Caps could not get another past Senators goalie Martin Gerber would ended the night with 35 saves in the win. Kolzig was equally as stellar in net for the Capitals stopping 35 as well.

The loss denied Washington a chance to pull back to .500. With a Lightning win, they are now seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Your Top Three Stars:
1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington 1 goal
2. Martin Gerber, Ottawa 35 saves
3. Olie Kolzig, Washington 35 saves

Game Notes:

Brian Sutherby was a whopping 0 for 5 in faceoff opportunities. It's no wonder why Gordon has taken his spot as the top checking center on the team.... Lawrence Nycholat had the hit of the night knocking Heatley on his back with an open ice shoulder check.... Richard Zednik, despite being medically cleared to play, did not dress in the game. Matt Bradley was also scratched for the third consecutive game for personal reasons.... Defenseman Jeff Schultz continues to impress playing 17:46 minutes and was +1 defensively.... Alex Ovechkin had a season high in minutes played with 26:57. He even saw a shift towards the end of a penalty kill in the second period.... Tomas Fleichmann had 3 assists and Alexandre Giroux had 2 goals last night in the AHL All-Star game.

Capitals/Senators Preview


Washington Capitals (21-22-7, 49 points)
at
Ottawa Senators (29-21-2, 60 points)

Television: NewsChannel 8
Radio: WTNT 570-AM
Gametime: 7:00 PM ET


The Capitals look to finish up the first month of 2007 by starting a much needed winning streak. Coming off a win Saturday night that few could have predicted the team heads north of the border to take on the streaking Ottawa Senators who have won 12 of their last 15 games.

One player that will be sad to see January come to an end is russian winger Alexander Semin, who has five multi-goal games during the month. The team will hope to get a boost from winger Richard Zednik who should make his return to the lineup tonight after missing 24 games with a sports hernia. He will be a welcomed veteran addition to the Capitals inexperienced lineup. Hopefully he will pick up right where he left off as before he was injured on December 2nd, he had finally rediscovered his scoring touch. With the trading deadline just four weeks away, it will be a critical time for the Caps and Zednik, who could be moved should the team fall out of contention.

But while Zednik returns one of their key defenseman Brian Pothier, continues to miss time with what is believed to be a concussion. He will miss his 4th consecutive game tonight. Matt Bradley who has missed the last 2 games with personal reasons is listed as questionable.

It could be a special night for Alex Ovechkin as he will try to extend his consecutive game point streak to 12 games which would be a career high for him.

This will be the first of a three game road trip for the Capitals who travel to Florida on Thursday and to Pittsburgh on Saturday before returning home for a Sunday matinée with the New York Islanders. The Caps should have an advantage when it comes to rest as the team has not played since defeating Carolina Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Senators are coming off a loss at Montreal last night for the second game in as many nights.

The key, as it normally is, will be for the Capitals to get off to a fast start and take advantage of what should be a tired Senators squad.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Champion in Life, A Legend in Death

It was a sad day for everyone that has followed his story with admiration. Eight months after breaking down on the track during the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro finally succumbed to his injuries and was euthanized this morning. The decision was made by Dr. Dean Richardson after he informed the horse's owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson of the discomfort Barbaro was in following his latest setback.

It was an unexpected end for the champion thoroughbred, who only a month ago was on the verge of being released from the New Bolton Center after doctors declared him healthy. However, in the past few weeks Barbaro took a turn for the worst. Yesterday, after performing a risky surgery on his right hind leg, the same one he shattered in the Preakness, doctors discovered that he had developed the deadly laminitis disease in all three of his other hoofs. The result meant that Barbaro had no remaining healthy legs to help bear his weight. With his chances of surviving minimal and his discomfort greater than ever the decision was made to end the battle.

Barbaro retired an undefeated champion winning all six of his races including the 2006 Kentucky Derby. An inspirational story that may develop a Hollywood ending in the coming years as Barbaro's dam La Ville Rouge is currently pregnant with what will be a full brother to the legendary horse. The foal is expected in early spring and just perhaps might be the early favorite for the 2010 Triple Crown.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Capitals Sunday Practice Update

First a quick look at the lines for today's practice:
  1. Red line - Ovechkin, Zubrus, Clark, plus Zednik who should play Tuesday in Ottawa
  2. Teal line - Semin, Laich, Fehr
  3. Yellow line - Pettinger, Gordon, Sutherby
  4. Black line - Brashear, Beech, Clymer
Mike Green was the first to hit the ice 15 minutes before practice was scheduled to begin. He showed no signs of his recent ankle injury and seemed to be skating at 100%.

Once again Brian Pothier and Matt Bradley were not at practice today joining injured list members John Erskine and Brian Muir on the sideline.

The practice had a very technical feel to it and the team was treating it that way as, despite the big win last night, there was not a lot of hooting and hollering today. They started off with a forechecking drill where the center was responsible for pressuring the puck in the offensive zone while the two wings covered the side boards preventing the breakout pass. Next was an outlet drill that had a couple of variations to it, all of which ended up in a breakaway scoring chance. This was followed by a drill that focused on their quick breakouts as 2 defensemen were located on each side of the forward line. They would change directions a couple times before entering the offensive zone.

The next part of practice was the most heavily practiced drill of the day as they worked on their play in the corners. The exercise would last as long as the offense controlled the puck. There were three variations of this drill that included dividing the offensive zone into a smaller area. They were highly contested drills as there was a lot of hard hitting led by none other than Ovechkin. Jeff Schultz also knocked Brooks Laich to the ice, drawing a roar from the players. While this was going on, Kolzig and Johnson took turns working with goaltending coach Dave Prior on the other side of the ice.

The practice finished up with a 3 on 1 breakaway drill that also included a trailing defenseman. Ben Clymer had the prettiest goal in this exercise beating Johnson glove side that drew an applause from the nice crowd on hand. I would estimate that there was about 200 people there on this Sunday morning as the bleachers were mostly full.

After practice Jamie Heward brought his son out for a little mites on ice entertainment. I lost track counting the number of times he fell which was amusing.

The NHL returns today to NBC with a regional game at 3:30 PM ET. If you are a fan of hockey you should support the sport as we need all the ratings we can get. The local game in DC should be Philadelphia at Atlanta.

Down on the Farm:

Before a sellout crowd of 10,734 people at the Giant Center last night, the Hershey Bears took a 2 goal lead into the third period before falling to the Norfolk Admirals 4-3. Newly demoted Jakub Klepis scored his first AHL goal of the season and Chris Bourque added his 12th and 13th in the losing effort. It was the Bears second straight loss heading into the All-Star break as they are now 4 points behind the division leading Admirals.

Matt Stefanishion tied the game at 3 late in the third period and Donny Grover got the game winner in overtime as South Carolina rallied for a 4-3 win at the Texas Wildcatters. It was the third consecutive game in as many nights between the two teams. Davis Parley stopped 42 of 45 shots for the win in his fourth consecutive night of work including his game with Hershey on Wednesday. The Stingrays will take a much needed break and return to action on Friday night in Duluth, Georgia against the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Sunday Morning Thoughts

A big win such as last night always makes for a beautiful morning. Not even the overcast, wet weather can dampen the good feeling Capitals' fans will wake up with. But first, let us not forget to thank who made this all possible, the overconfident Carolina Hurricanes. They drove into Washington last night riding high off their dominating win in Raleigh on Friday and thought that they could just show up and win. The Caps knocked them back down to reality, taking advantage of three turnovers to score three unassisted goals and never looked back. It's time for another feel good addition of morning thoughts:

  • With his goal last night, Ovechkin not only extended his point streak to 11 games, but also put him into a tie with Atlanta's Marian Hossa for the league lead in goals with 31.
  • Alexander Semin moved himself into 7th place in the NHL in goals after he recorded his 5th multi-goal game of the month last night. With his 29 goals on the season he is only 2 behind Ovechkin.
  • Coach Hanlon changed up the lines again and just might have found two pairings to use for the long run. Eric Fehr jumped right in on the right side of Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin for a potent second scoring line. Laich acquitted himself well in his opportunity to capture the ever revolving second line center position. The other line that showed lots of potential was the shut down checking line of Pettinger, Gordon, and Sutherby. While they did not reach the scoring sheet, they had more ice time than Ovechkin and Semin and proved that they can silence their opponent's top lines.
With the Capitals off tonight don't forget to catch the AHL All-Star Skills Competition free on b2networks live at 7:00 PM ET. And tomorrow night the AHL All-Star game will also be available for free on b2networks starting at the same time. If you want to wait and watch it on tv, the game can be seen Wednesday, January 31st at 12:00 PM ET on Comcast Sportsnet. Unlike the NHL All-Star game, this will be a highly competitive game as players try to impress the many scouts that will be on hand.

I'm off to the Capitals practice this morning. I'll have a recap this afternoon.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Caps Return Favor

Avenge Lopsided Loss in Raleigh With An Easy Win In DC
Washington Capitals 7, Carolina Hurricanes 3
Boxscore

The Caps needed this type of game in a big way. After starting out the second half of the season looking like a team completely lost, they came out tonight a determined team and jumped all over the Hurricanes.

Newly recalled winger Eric Fehr started out the game doing his best Klepis impersonation, taking a pointless offensive zone holding penalty just three minutes into the game. But after the Caps killed off the penalty, they took control of the game. They scored three times before the Hurricanes even knew what hit them.

Alexander Semin led a two-on-one break with Brooks Laich and after holding the puck, debating whether or not to pass, ripped a wrist shot off the top right corner of the goal post and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. Ovechkin would follow that up with a power play goal after Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg turned the puck over and it found its way right to the front of the net. Semin would complete the barrage of goals when he pick pocketed Erik Cole from the Caps blue line and streaked down the ice on a breakaway. He beat Cam Ward once again to the top right corner for his second of the night and 29th of the season. When will the goalies in the NHL learn that he loves to shoot to their glove side?

After the quick start though, Carolina looked to make a game of it by scoring twice within a minute to close the gap to 3-2 at the end of the first period. Justin Williams' 26th and Erik Cole's 22nd send the Caps to the locker room shaking their heads in frustration. But luckily, that would be as close as they would get.

A hard fought second period went scoreless until the 15th minute, when Semin stole the puck in the offensive zone and then Eric Fehr stole the puck of his stick and deposited it past Ward short side over his blocker pad. The goal was Fehr's first in the NHL in his 14th career game.

The third period was all Washington. On a delayed penalty call that gave the Caps a six-on-five advantage, Ovechkin made a tremendous individual move and Kris Beech was the beneficiary of his pass, rifling a shot past Ward for his 6th of the season and a 5-2 lead. Carolina would try to get back in the game, scoring on a power play goal by David Tanabe, his 1st of the season, to make it 5-3. However, that was as close as the Hurricanes could get as goals by Clark, his 21st, and Laich shorthanded, his 5th, made the final 7-3 before a raucous Verizon Center crowd of 16,924.

Game Notes:

Alex Ovechkin extended his point streak to 11 games, tying his career high set last season. He also has 12 assists in the month of January ranking him third in the NHL.... Brian Pothier missed his 3rd consecutive game.... Richard Zednik could return from the injured reserve list and play on Tuesday in Ottawa... Alexander Semin now has 5 multiple goal games in January. He has 17 points in his last 10 games.... The Hershey Bears gave up 3 third period goals and lost to the first place Norfolk Admirals 4-3.

Capitals/Hurricanes Preview


Carolina Hurricanes (26-19-6, 58 points)
at
Washington Capitals (20-22-7, 47 points)

Television: Comcast Sportsnet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 7:00 PM

A week off to prepare for yesterday's game did nothing to help change the Caps losing ways. The Hurricanes were able to take advantage of the opportunities the Capitals game them and ended up blowing them out of Raleigh.

The turning point in the game was the back-to-back penalties by Jakub Klepis in the beginning of the second period. If one person can ever be responsible for a loss while only being on the ice for 2:38, than last night was a good example of this. Klepis killed all the momentum the Caps had going their way, and swung it back into the Hurricanes favor. But really, are we suprised? Klepis has been playing this way all year. He had developed a propensity to take unnecessary penalties, and at this time has done nothing to prove that he is an NHL player. If he is not sent back to Hershey today I will be shocked.

Despite the short distance, it must have been a long trip back to Washington for the Caps. Hopefully they spent their time trying to figure out what they each have to do individually in order to turn their season around. And time is becoming a factor with only 33 games remaining.

On the positive side, Alex Ovechkin will try to extend his career long ten game point scoring streak tonight. His 30 goals on the season now put him into a tie with 4 other players for 2nd in the league behind Atlanta's Marian Hossa.

Down on the Farm:

Hershey will host a rematch with the Admirals tonight from the Giant Center after falling in Norfolk last night 5-4 in overtime. The game was played before the first ever sellout crowd of 8,784 at the Norfolk Scope Arena. Bears center Dave Steckel had a pair of goals in the loss giving him 18 on the season. Despite the loss, the Bears outshot the Admirals 35-22. You can catch all the live action tonight via b2networks by visiting the Hershey Bears official website at the 7:00 PM gametime.

The South Carolina Stingrays will play at the Texas Wildcatters for the third consecutive night. The teams have split the first two games with the Stingrays winning on Thursday night, and the Wildcatters winning last night. The gametime is 8:05 PM. You can catch all the live action via b2networks by visiting Stringrayshockey.com.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Capitals Crash and Burn

Washington Can't Stay Out of the Box, Carolina Makes Them Pay
Carolina Hurricanes 6, Washington Capitals 2
Boxscore

Everything looked to be going their way. Alex Ovechkin had just recorded his 30th goal of the season and the team had recovered from a slow start to tie the game at two just 54 seconds into the second period. But then the penalty bug bit them and a pair of inexcusable plays by center Jakub Klepis swung the momentum in the Hurricanes favor for good.

A goaltender interference penalty by Klepis was quickly followed by a Chris Clark hooking call that gave Carolina a two man advantage. Erik Cole helped the Caps out by taking down defenseman Shoane Morrisonn just after Boyd Gordon had just won a key faceoff inside the Caps zone, ending the five on three situation. They seemed to have escaped a very tenuous situation when Klepis' penalty expired. However, immediately after leaving the box, Klepis took a silly hooking penalty and was sent right back to the box. The Hurricanes would capitalize on the gift as Justin Williams scored on the four on three man advantage for his second on the night and 25th of the season. For his actions, Klepis was benched for the rest of the game after totaling only 2:38 of ice time.

Later in the second period Steve Eminger would save the day momentarily for the Caps. After a chaotic scramble in front of Johnson the puck squirted past the goaltender and was moving slowly towards the empty net when Eminger cleared the puck off the goal line with his right glove. A fight between Chris Clark and Scott Walker ensued and the captain held his own despite trying his best to protect his recently repaired jaw. It was a gutsy effort by Clark who, earlier in the night, had gotten the Caps on the board redirecting a Danius Zubrus pass off his left skate past goaltender Cam Ward into the back of the net for his 20th goal of the season. It is the second consecutive 20 goal season for Clark.

Washington was unable to take advantage of Eminger's save as the Hurricanes would score two goals just ninety seconds apart in the last five minutes of the second period on goals by Justin Williams and Ray Whitney. An Eric Staal goal, his 23rd of the season, just 1:17 into the third period destroyed any idea the Capitals had of making a comeback.

Carolina got on the board first when traditional Cap killer Rod Brind'Amour burst in the offensive zone and flew past a flat-footed Eminger to the slot beating Brent Johnson with a backhand shot for his 14th goal of the season. Justin Williams would add another goal just five minutes later on a hard slap shot after he entered the Caps' zone unchallenged making it 2-0.

Game Notes:
Jeff Schultz recorded his first career point when he assisted on Clark's goal.... Justin Williams had two goals and one assist on the night.... Ovechkin's goal extended his point scoring streak to 10 games.... Both of the Caps' affiliates also lost last night as Hershey lost in overtime to Norfolk 5-4 and South Carolina lost at Texas 6-3.

TGIF Morning Thoughts

  • Hopefully everyone took advantage of the week off and got away from the game a little bit and recharged their batteries so that when the Caps hit the ice tonight, they will resemble the hard working team we have come to know and love.
  • It's funny how over the course of the past week defenseman Brian Pothier's status changed from being out with the flu, to being out with an upper body injury. But seriously, did anybody really buy that report from the beginning? We all saw Pothier hobble off the ice in Carolina last week doubled over. Sure didn't seem like a case of the flu just hit him all at once. Why the Capitals feel like they need to disguise injuries so much is beyond me. If this was the NFL they would be regularly fined by the league.
  • Rookie Jeff Schultz was recalled from Hershey and will be in the lineup for tonight's game. Schultz had an impressive couple games last week, and providing that he continues to display that same level of play, I believe he should remain in the lineup for good.
  • I was a bit shocked when Jakub Klepis was recalled to the team earlier in the week. Let's face it, he has done nothing to distinguish himself this year at the NHL level. Klepis should stay in Hershey where he could play twenty minutes a night and get his game back in shape. If I were the GM, Eric Fehr would have been my call up. If you've had a chance to see a Hershey game as of late, he looks like a man playing among boys. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now and deserves a shot to earn a regular spot in the Capitals lineup.
  • Keith Seabrook, Washington's second round pick in the 2006 entry draft, was named WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) rookie of the week. Seabrook, a freshman for the Universith of Denver, had 3 points, 7 hits, and 3 blocked shots in back-to-back games against #1 Minnesota last weekend. It looks as though another Capitals' prospect is developing quite nicely.
Down on the Farm:

The South Carolina Stingrays defeated the Texas Wildcatters 6-2 last night. Davis Parley returned to the team, following a one game stint with the Hershey Bears, and stopped 47 of 49 shots to record his league leading 20th win of the season. From Stingrayshockey.com:

“Parley was tremendous,” South Carolina coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. “Davis is a true professional. Goaltending was the difference and he has been a pleasure to watch. We spread around the scoring and it was a great way to begin a six-game road trip.”

Capitals' prospect and local boy Stephen Werner had a goal and an assist to improve the Stingrays record to 22-15-3, 47 points putting them only five points behind the division leading Gwinnett Gladiators. He currently has 5 goals and 3 assists in 8 games this season in South Carolina. After battling injuries earlier this season, look for Werner to return to Hershey once he gets a little more seasoning in him.

For those of you on the Capitals message boards who continue to post about Matt Yeats and want to know where he is now, look no further than the ECHL's Texas Wildcatters. He has played in 29 games so far this year, posting a 15-10-2-1 record.

The team will be in Texas again tonight for a rematch at 8:35 pm. You can catch all the action live via b2networks by visiting Stingrayshockey.com.

The Hershey Bears return to action tonight with a key game against the East Division leading Norfolk Admirals. It will be the first of a home-and-home series between the two teams that will go a long way in deciding who will take control of the division. The Bears are currently only one point behind the Admirals, who received a boost on their roster with the reassignment of Rene Bourque, the 2004-05 AHL rookie of the year, from the Chicago Blackhawks. In 24 games with the Blackhawks, the talented left-winger recorded 4 goals and 4 assists.

As announced by coach Bruce Boudreau, Daren Machesney will get the start in goal tonight. You can catch all the live action via b2networks by visiting the Hershey Bears official homepage. The game time tonight is 7:00 pm.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Capitals/Hurricanes Preview


Washington Capitals (20-21-7, 47 points)
at
Carolina Hurricanes (25-19-6, 56 points)

Television: NC8
Radio: WTNT 570-AM
Gametime: 7:00 PM

The second half of the season officially begins Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina as the Capitals begin a home-and-home series against the defending Stanley Cup champions. It was only eight days ago that Washington entered an away game against Carolina riding a six game road losing streak and a three game losing streak overall. Despite all that, the team was able to put together a solid sixty minute effort for an impressive 5-2 win.

They will need an even better performance in order to overcome a Hurricanes team that will be fully prepared to avenge what their coach Peter Laviolette described as a bitterly disappointing effort. Carolina went into the break with a two game losing streak after they followed up that game with an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last Saturday.

Alex Ovechkin will return to the team after missing Thursday's practice while traveling back from the NHL All-Star game in Dallas. A game in which he had the most ice time of any forward and was able to tally his first career all-star goal. It remains to be seen if Ovechkin will continue to wear his stylish but controversial blue mirrored visor in the regular season. While not against NHL rules, a similar mirrored visor he wore last year was voted down by general managers by a vote of 29-1 after New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur complained that he could not see his eyes. He enters Friday night's game riding a nine game point scoring streak, accumulating 4 goals and 11 assists over that span.

Carolina defenseman Niclas Wallin is questionable for the game with a lower-body injury which he suffered against Washington in last week's game.
For the Capitals, what last week was described as the flu, has now been changed to an upper body injury for Brian Pothier. He will miss Friday's game as defenseman Jeff Schultz was recalled Thursday to take his place in the lineup. He played well when he was thrust into the lineup before the break because of injuries. As reported in the Washington Post, Matt Bradley will also be missing from the lineup for personal reasons. This could explain why Jakub Klepis was recalled earlier in the week. Richard Zednik should return to the lineup any day now after recovering from a severe groin injury.

It will be the fifth out of eight games on the season between these division rivals.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Western Conference Wins 55th All-Star Game

Lots of Action, Plenty of Fun Provided by NHL's Best
West All-Stars 12, East All-Stars 9

In a exhibition game such as this, the play was dominated by individual efforts that at times were spectacular. Daniel Briere won the MVP, but was unable to help his team overcome 12 goals by the West All-Stars. He led the game in scoring by recording five points on 1 goal and 4 assists.

Alex Ovechkin made his NHL debut a special one by recording his first All-Star goal on a rebound off of goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff. He also sported his new blue tinted visor for the first time in a game. It remains to be seem whether or not the league will allow him to wear the visor during a regular season game.

Martin Brodeur provided the highlight of the night for the goaltenders, recording an exciting windmill like save in the second period.

The game also marked the debut for the controversial new Reebok uniforms that will become the standard beginning next season. For all the hype, the uniforms didn't seem like a big deal to me. They have the same traditional look and they should help the players feel more comfortable. It will be interesting to see the verdict from the players and the media on their debut.

After what has felt like a long break, the NHL schedule will resume on Friday with 11 contests across the league. The Capitals travel to Carolina for the first of a home-and-home series. They will need to be well prepared as the Hurricanes will be looking for revenge following the Capitals win in Raleigh last week.


Hershey Bears 6, Philadelphia Phantoms 1
Boxscore

A five goal second period allowed Hershey to coast to an easy victory tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum. With the help of two power-play goals, Chad Wiseman led the way for the Bears completing a natural hat trick 8:26 into the second period that gave Hershey a 3-0 lead. His three goals gave him a total of 13 on the season. Tomas Fleichmann would add another, his 16th of the season, before the Phantoms would finally crack the scoreboard.

Frederik Cabana beat Hershey goaltender Davis Parley for his 2nd of the season, giving Philadelphia a glimmer of hope in making a game of it. However Parley, making his AHL debut, would shut down the Phantoms the rest of the way recording 21 saves for his first career victory for the Bears. He was backed up in the game by newcomer Nolan Schaefer who was acquired on loan from the Worcester Sharks this week.

Alexandre Giroux missed his second consecutive game with a an "upper body injury" that is believed to be a shoulder. Despite being absent from the lineup he still ranks third in the league with his 30 goals on the season.

The win improved Hershey's record to 29-8-3-5, 66 points moving them only one point behind division leading Norfolk.

Your Top Three Stars:
1. Chad Wiseman, Hershey 3 goals and 1 assist
2. Tomas Fleichmann, Hershey 1 goal and 1 assist
3. Davis Parley, Hershey 21 saves

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Young Stars and Super Skills Competition Do Their Job: Entertain



It was an exciting preliminary night to be followed by the main event tomorrow, the NHL All-Star game. The young stars put on a show of their skills and how the game would look should it start to resemble the NBA (The No Defense League).
Capitals defenseman Mike Green was able to play in the exhibition despite still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered last week. He recorded two assists and had a breakaway opportunity that was denied by Colorado's Peter Budaj.
Alex Ovechkin participated in the second half of the events for the night, the Super Skills competition. He was a contestant in the fastest skater competition which seemed to be suffering from technical difficulties. The electronic timer was not functioning correctly so the time was being recorded on the ice via a stopwatch. It was not exactly the most efficient way of conducting this event. Ovechkin seemed to be flying around the ice, but when he finished he was announced as having a time above 15 seconds, which was a full second behind the leader at the time Patrick Marleau. The commentators even suggested that the time-keeper obviously was no Capitals fan. Later on, Ovechkin continued his struggles in shootout situations as he missed his only attempt of the night.
Did anyone else have trouble following the ending to the Super Skills competition? How did Sidney Crosby get to take 4 shootout opportunities in a row? Maybe I was just tired, but it was very confusing.
Overall though it was an outstandingly entertaining night, which will hopefully lead to a memorable All-Star game tomorrow night.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ovechkin vs Crosby

By this time, we've heard and engaged in the debate over and over again. If you could build your franchise around one of these two young superstars, which would you choose? In the newest issue of The Hockey News magazine, columnists Ken Campbell and Mike Brophy provide what I believe to be the best argument so far. More specifically Ken Campbell provides the best case as to why your choice should be Ovechkin.




VS





Campbell: "I looked at the stats this morning. Alex Ovechkin 77 career goals, Sidney Crosby 58 career goals. Goals are what make things happen in the NHL. You can get a goal without an assist, but you can't get an assist without a goal. Ovechkin is by far the better goal-scorer, he's more dynamic, more explosive, he speaks his mind. Sidney Crosby never does. He just completely shuts it down and gives you cliche after cliche. If we're looking at growing this game, Ovechkin is the dominant personality. He's the dominant player and he does it with way less of a supporting cast that Crosby does. He's out-and-out the better player.

Brophy: "You tried to sell me on Wayne Gretzky over Bobby Orr on if he never scored a goal he would have led the NHL in scoring by assists and now you're undermining the value of an assist."

Campbell: "Gretzky's still the all-time leading goal-scorer, too, though."

Brophy: "You're undervaluing an assist. Sidney Crosby is younger. Sidney Crosby has more pressure on him. The expectations for him to be great have been there for a long time. If we're going to talk about selling the game, we're getting into personalities. I'm talking about Sidney Crosby the hockey player. Crosby is on a mission to be the best player in the world. I think Alexander Ovechkin is on a mission to be a great player. Sidney Crosby has set himself up for the harder chore of the two. I get a sense watching the two that while they both strive for greatness, Sidney Crosby will be the first to lead his team to a championship and will have more to do with his team winning the championship than Ovechkin will."

Campbell: "I just see a guy in Ovechkin who's intensely committed. I think he wants to be every bit as good as Sidney Crosby. He wants to be the best player in the world just like Sidney does. What may set them apart is Sidney Crosby, the way he plays the game, is goinBg to break down a lot sooner than Alexander Ovechkin will. Crosby won't last as long because he plays the game too recklessly and leaves himself much more vulnerable to injury than Ovechkin does."

Brophy: "I love Sidney's intensity. In the end it may be his undoing - he's the epitome of a guy who will go through a brick wall to succeed. In a 1-on-1 showdown, and this has been proven in their showdowns, Sidney will come out on top."

Campbell: "Except, of course, at last year's NHL Awards. I don't think he came out on top there. I could be wrong..."

The fact is you can't go wrong with either one. And while they are both top of the line superstars, they are very different when it comes to their playing styles. Ovechkin emits more passion for the game in the emotions he shows both on and off the ice. Crosby has that same love of the game but he is just a more passive person personality wise. Campbell's best argument is when he brings up the issue of goal scoring. Ovechkin is by far and away the better and more explosive goal scorer of the two. He is also the faster skater of the two, and can use that speed to absolutely blow by defenders. Crosby's 4-0-1 record in head to head match-ups so far is meaningless, as both teams are just in the beginning stages of rebuilding their rosters. It remains to be seen whether Brophy's prediction of Crosby winning a championship first comes to fruition. Hopefully Ovechkin will prove him wrong and finally bring the Stanley Cup to Washington.

The Hockey News Editor Jason Kay had this idea on a way to spice up the All-Star game:
"A team of 30-and-older players against a team of 29-and-under. Imagine Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin trying to work their magic against Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur vs Cam Ward, Chris Chelios trying to stop Jordan Staal. There would certainly be a lot more pride on the line under this scenario than there is when East meets West."

I love it. It would provide a way to inspire a more exciting game. The young guys trying to take down the veterans. And the old guys trying to show the young guys whose boss. Just another way to liven up the game a little.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bears Finish Up Weekend With Victory

Hershey Dominates Division Rival Penguins for Complete 60 Minutes
Hershey Bears 4, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1
Boxscore

Washington Capitals' mascot Slapshot was on hand to see the Hershey Bears completely dominate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Peguins from the get go. The Peguins were playing their 4th game in 5 nights and it showed as the Bears jumped all over them from the moment the puck was dropped. Despite a Chad Wiseman hooking penalty just 46 seconds into the game, the Bears were able to grab possession of the puck. Dave Steckel took a pass from defenseman Dean Arsene at the red line and moved into the Penguins zone uncontested. He fired a wrist shot past goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers into the top right corner of the net for his 14th of the season to give the Bears a 1-0 lead just 1:01 into the game. The goal was the Bears' 17th short handed goal of the season.

Hershey would keep the pressure on the Penguins and scored their second goal of the game as their first power-play of the game expired. Jeff Schultz took a pass from Jakub Klepis at the point and fired a wrist shot just inside the blue line that deflected off Penguins' defenseman Tom Gilbert's left skate into the back of the net. It was Schultz's 2nd goal of the season in his first game back with Hershey after being reassigned by the Capitals for the All-Star break.

After their second goal, the Bears continued to control the action recording the first seven shots of the game and not allowing a Wilkes-Barre shot for the first six minutes of the game. They scored again after Chris Bourque controlled the puck in the Penguins corner and fired a shot towards the net with lots of traffic in front. Steckel was able to get a stick on the puck to deflect in his second goal and the game and 15th of the season. It was the Bears third goal in their first nine shots of the game.

It was a physical game, in front of 7,653 fans at the Giant Center, as a lot of scrums followed stoppages in play. Timo Helbling had the hit of the night, leveling Penguins' left winger Alexei Mikhnov on his back as he entered the Bears zone three minutes into the game. Heavyweights Deryk Engelland and Dennis Bonvie had a nice battle at the 11:35 mark of the first period. They exchanged some big blows before Bonvie connected on consecutive rights to knock Engelland to the ice.

The Penguins tried to get back in the game and got a short-handed goal at the 3:10 mark of the second period to cut the lead to 3-1. But they were unable to build any momentum off of that goal and the score remained the same until the 13:35 mark of the third period, when Chris Bourque deflected a Chad Wiseman shot from the point into the back of the net for his 11th goal of the season, giving the Bears the 4-1 win. The victory improved Hershey's record to 28-8-3-5, 64 points putting them three points ahead of the third place Penguins, and three points behind the first place Norfolk Admirals.

Your Top 3 Stars of the Game:
1. Dave Steckel, Hershey 2 goals, 1 assist
2. Jeff Schultz, Hershey 1 goal, 1 assist
3. Chris Bourque, Hershey 1 goal, 1 assist

Game Notes: Bears coach Bruce Boudreau announced today that Maxime Daigneault could be out a couple days or a couple weeks with what is being described as a lower body injury. To take his place on the roster Hershey recalled Davis Parley from the South Carolina Stingrays who was on hand to backup Daren Machesney today.... Jamie Hunt, Marc Busenburg, Joey Tenute, and Alexandre Giroux were scratched from the lineup.... The Bears continuously used Jakub Klepis at the point on the power play's first unit.... Hershey currently leads the league in penalty minutes as a team with 1180.

The All-Star Break Begins


A much need break for the Capitals begins today. The team is off until they practice on Thursday before traveling to Raleigh again to take on a Hurricanes team that will be ready for revenge. Each Caps player needs to take a look at their own game personally and find out the best way for them to return to the team refocused and at the top of their game. Last year the Capitals were able to come off the Olympic break and post a winning record during the second half of the season. They must find a way to repeat that this year. Now, a look at some more morning thoughts:
  • At the end of the game yesterday you could see on tv fans throwing trash on the ice. While I can understand being upset with the way the team played, I definitely do not condone this type of behavior. I would love to hear from anybody that was at the game that can describe how bad it was, because it has not been talked about at all in the media.
  • The game was one of the most tightly called games of the season. But the officials cannot be blamed for the loss at all as the game was called evenly.
  • Matt Pettinger provided one of the few highlights of the day when he brook up a quality scoring chance by diving on the backcheck and blocking a cross ice pass on a 2 on 1 break by the Panthers in the first period.
  • Jeff Schultz and Jamie Hunt were reassigned to Hershey following the game, and Hunt actually played for the Bears last night against Bridgeport.
  • I feel bad for Olaf Kolzig who was spectacular as usual stopping 38 of 41 shots, but had no help from his defensemen.
Down on the Farm: Hershey will look to rebound from a sub par effort against Bridgeport last night when they host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins today at 5:00 PM. For those of you who might not be football fans, or if the Bears game gets out of hand early, you can catch all the live action from b2networks by visiting the Hershey Bears official website.
After losing 5-0 in Friday night in Charlotte, the South Carolina Stingrays rebounded for a 4-3 overtime victory last night when they hosted the Columbia Inferno before a sell-out crowd of 10,496 at the North Charleston Coliseum. Seriously though 10,496 people? Between that and the 9,401 that came to see the Hershey Bears last night in Chocolatetown, it is nice to know that our minor league teams have such great support. From Stingrayshockey.com:

“The crowd was tremendous,” South Carolina coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. “The fans were like the seventh man and helped us to victory. It was an awesome finish to a great game.”
“The fans were amazing,” said center Matt Reid, who had four points on two goals and two assists. “The atmosphere was electric and they gave us the energy that we needed to pull out the win. We certainly appreciate the support from the fans.”

Defenseman T.J. McElroy also added 3 assists to lead the way for the Stingrays. Davis Parley stopped 28 of 31 shots to earn his league leading and career high 19th win. The game winning goal was scored by Evan Schwabe (pictured) at the 3:14 mark of the overtime period.
The Stingrays return to action for an 8:05 PM game Thursday night in Texas against the Wildcatters. Catch all the live action from b2networks by visiting Stingrayshockey.com.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hershey Lets One Slip Away



Bears led 3-1 before falling in Shootout to Bridgeport
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4, Hershey Bears 3 F/SO
Boxscore

Hershey, in front of a large home crowd of 9,401, seemed to be in complete control of this game, getting on the board early when Eric Fehr put a loose puck past Sound Tigers' goaltender Wade Dubielewicz for a 1-0 lead just 2:20 into the first period. It was the 22nd goal of the season for the talented right winger. Jakub Klepis, playing in his first game since being reassigned to the Bears, missed a chance to put Hershey up by 2 when he failed to connect on a wide open net courtesy of a pass from defenseman Timo Helbling.

Bridgeport responded with a power-play goal by Brandon Nolen after Matt Hendricks was sent to the box for hooking. That goal, Nolen's 3rd of the season, tied the game at one.

Tomas Fleichmann quickly responded for the Bears, putting Hershey back on top just 43 seconds later capitalizing on a rebound off a Joey Tenute shot that Dubielewicz was unable to secure. With 1:44 remaining in the first period Fleichmann would put in his second goal of the game and 15th of the season. Alexandre Giroux, who had the primary assist on the goal, would immediately get into an altercation with Bridgeport's Tomas Melac before he was able to celebrate the goal. Giroux would make quick work of Melac knocking him to the ice with a quick right. Matching fighting majors would follow, but Melac would get an extra roughing penalty on the play.

In what can be looked at as a turning point in the game, Maxime Daigneault was shaken up 1:50 into the second period after Drew Fata broke to the net and ran him over after failing to convert on his scoring opportunity. Daigneault would finish the period but would then be replaced by backup Daren Machesney at the beginning of the third.

Bridgeport would take advantage of this shift in momentum by cutting the lead to 3-2 when Robert Nilsson capitalized on a two man advantage by scoring his 9th goal of the season. The Sound Tigers then controlled much of the action for the rest of the game. And despite a sound relief effort by Machesney, they were able to tie the game at 3 with 6:23 remaining in the game on a goal by Eric Boguniecki, his 9th of the season as well. That score would hold up through overtime leading to a shootout to decide the outcome of the contest.

For those of you unfamiliar with the AHL rules in the shootout, they actually have 5 rounds as apposed to the NHL's 3 rounds. Goals by Bridgeport's Peter Ferraro and Steve Regier put the Sound Tigers ahead 2-0. Hershey was able to respond however and after goals by Tomas Fleichmann and Matt Hendricks the shootout was tied up at 2 after four shots. On the fifth attempt Allan Rourke put the game winner past Machesney while Dubielewicz stopped Joey Tenute's attempt to tie. Wade Dubielewicz was outstanding for the Sound Tigers, stopping 51 shots in regulation and overtime plus 3 of 5 in the shootout for the win.

It was a disappointing outcome for the Bears who were looking to make up some ground on division leading Norfolk who lost earlier in the day.

Your Top 3 Stars of the Game:
1. Wade Dubielewicz, Bridgeport 51 saves
2. Tomas Fleichmann, Hershey 2 goals
3. Eric Boguniecki, Bridgeport Game-tying goal

Note: Defenseman Jamie Hunt, who was recalled earlier in the day to Washington and did not play when Mike Green dressed, was returned to Hershey and played in tonight's game.

Will the Real Caps Team Please Stand Up?


Tale of Two Games as Capitals Start Out Strong Then Disappear As Panthers Dominate Once Again
Florida Panthers 4, Washington Capitals 1
Boxscore

In front of a crowd of 13,877 at the Verizon Center, the Caps came out guns a blazing, just as they had two nights ago in Raleigh, North Carolina. They took advantage of a penalty-plagued opening (14 minutes of penalties combined in the first 8 minutes of the game) and converted on a two man advantage when Danius Zubrus took a cross ice pass from Alex Ovechkin, and slipped the puck between goaltender Ed Belfour's pads for an early 1-0 lead. It was Zubrus' 17th goal of the season and the 3rd time he has scored while the Caps enjoyed a two man advantage. Alex Ovechkin's assist extended his career high point scoring streak to 9 games.

But that would be the end of the highlights for the Capitals. Beginning in the second period the game quickly resembled last Saturday's debacle in Florida as the Panthers dominated every aspect of the game. They tied the score at the 2:42 mark on a beautiful backhand cross from Anthony Stewart which Marin Gelenas had no problem depositing into the back of the net for his 5th goal of the season. The Panthers would not let up, and despite a Nathan Horton tripping penalty, they would continue to control the action converting on their second quality scoring chance of the penalty kill when Jozef Stumpel snapped a wrist shot past the glove of Kolzig. The score would give the Panthers the lead for good. The Capitals did not record their first shot on goal in the second period until jthe 14:00 minute mark.

The third period was more of the same as the Capitals were outshot 10-1 early on. The game was put out of reach for good when Steve Eminger turned the puck over in his own end, which quickly turned into a 2 on 1 which the Panthers converted on as Ville Peltonen beat Kolzig for his 8th goal of the season and a 3-1 lead. Martin Gelenas would add his second goal of the game on an empty net goal in the last minute of the game making the final 4-1.

A week after giving up 54 shots to the Panthers, the Capitals were once again manhandled by the Southeastern Division dwellers giving up 42 shots on goal while only recording 18 shots themselves. The one positive stat to take away from this game was the Caps holding the Panthers to 0 for 10 on the power-play.

Game Notes: Brian Pothier was scratched from the lineup with what the team said was an "illness". Make your own judgments on the validity of that statement based on the team's history of not reporting injuries to the press....Jamie Hunt was recalled from Hershey but did not dress as Mike Green was able to return to the lineup....Shaone Morrisonn limped to the dressing room towards the end of the first period after blocking a shot off his foot, something that is becoming an epidemic for the Capitals' defenseman, but he was able to return in the second period and finished the game....Boyd Gordon was dominant in the face-off circle winning 15 of 22 for a 68% win percentage.

Caps/Panthers Preview


Florida Panthers (17-22-10, 44 points)
at
Washington Capitals (20-20-7, 47 points)

TV: Comcast Sportsnet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 1:00 PM

Revenge is on their mind as the Capitals look to finish up the first half of the season on a bright note before heading into the All-Star break. It was only one week ago that the Florida Panthers demolished the Caps in the sunshine state 7-3, and the game was not as close as the score. But a win Thursday night against the stanley cup champion Carolina Hurricanes has the Caps believing in themselves again. They came out with a passion that had not been seen as of late, received some lucky bounces for a change, and finished out the game in the third period, a solid all-around team effort.

It is yet to be known what the lineup will look like for the Caps on Saturday. Alexander Semin, Donald Brashear, and Brian Pothier all missed practice on Friday. Semin seems to be the only one whose presence seems likely in the game, Brashear and Pothier will be game time decision as reported by the Washington Post. That's good news for the team as Alexander Semin has been the best player on the ice for the Caps this month with 10 goals in his last 7 games. Pothier's absence would put the Capitals in position to have to make another emergency defensive call-up. He left Thursday night's game at the mid-way mark and did not return. As per the Capitals normal policy when it comes to injuries, the team is not saying anything about his condition. With Mike Green recently injured, and John Erskine and Bryan Muir already on the injured reserve list the Capitals cannot afford to loose another defenseman.

The Panthers enter Saturday's game with a 1-2-1 record over there last 4 games. They are currently in last place in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference. Once again, if the Capitals want to have any chance of making the playoffs they have to find a way to win this game at all cost.

After the Capitals practice on Friday the team reassigned center Jakub Klepis to Hershey of the AHL. This move was a long time coming. He had been the odd man out in the lineup lately, repeatedly being named as a healthy scratch. He received one last chance in Ottawa on Tuesday, but did nothing to stand out and was again a healthy scratch in Carolina. In 35 games he recorded 2 goals and 6 assists for 8 points. Hopefully this reassignment will help Klepis get his game back on track and return to Washington with his confidence renewed later in the season.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Capitals Practice Recap



The team seemed to be in good spirits today, as expected following a key victory the night before in Raleigh. Here are some of the highlights from the practice today at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex:
  • Alexander Semin, Donald Brashear, and Brian Pothier all missed practice today. When asked Capitals coach Dean Evason was unsure why and said it could be for a number of reasons. I asked Danius Zubrus as well if he knew of any reason and he shrugged his shoulders. So hopefully this means it is no big deal.
  • Richard Zednik took Semin's spot on the second line and looked as though he was practicing at full speed. When asked if there was any chance he would play in tomorrow's game Zednik said, "No". But look for him to be back in the lineup after the All-Star break.
  • During 2 on 1 drills Boyd Gordon provided the highlight of the day scoring on an excellent backhand move around goaltender Brent Johnson. The play drew applause from Alex Ovechkin who pounded his stick against the boards in approval.
  • A good portion of the practice focused on their defensive structure as coach Glen Hanlon's main focus that he was stressing to his players was to keep the opposition to the outside as they exit their own zone.
  • The team had a shootout competition where Jeff Schultz put on a show going 3 for 3 before being stopped on his last attempt which was the championship round with Jakub Klepis. Klepis scored on his attempt past Johnson for the win. Ovechkin missed on both of his attempts.
  • Mike Green came out at the end of practice and was skating around gingerly without pads. You could tell that he was trying to put pressure on his left leg, but looked very uncomfortable in doing so. He was skating for about 5 minutes before noticeably limping back to the locker room.

A+ Team Effort Ends Losing Streak


Semin, Kolzig Key Victory Over the Defending Stanley Cup Champions
Washington Capitals 5, Carolina Hurricanes 2
Boxscore

The fourth out of eight meetings on the season between these division rivals had a special meaning tonight. The Caps entered the game desperate to get anything positive going in their direction, while the Hurricanes looked to continue their dominance of the Southeast division, having not lost in regulation since October 26th.

Injuries forced the Capitals' head coach Glen Hanlon to juggle his defensive parings matching Steve Eminger with Shaone Morrisson, and Brian Pothier with Lawrence Nycholat. The changes seemed to spark the team as they played a consistent defensive system throughout the game. This defensive improvement helped spark their standout goaltender Olaf Kolzig who had an excellent game stopping 34 of Carolina's 36 shots. The key to Kolzig's performance was the fact that he was not allowing any rebounds, preventing the Hurricane's from any second chance opportunities.

The Caps came out blazing in the first period dominating the action early on and getting quality scoring chances from role players Boyd Gordon and Ben Clymer. But Hurricane's goaltender John Grahame was up to the task turning aside shot after shot. At the 13:00 minute mark though the Capitals got the bounce they needed when a Chris Clark dump in from just beyond the red line was deflected with a high stick by defenseman David Tanabe into an empty net vacated by Grahame. The kind of breaks this team had not been getting during their three game losing streak. Clark would add an empty net goal giving him his second of the night and 19th on the season.

The Hurricane's would play the majority of the game with only five healthy defenseman after Niclas Wallin left the game in the first period with a lower body injury.

Alexander Semin was spectacular scoring with a wicked wrist shot on a power-play goal off a Danius Zubrus faceoff win in the second period, and then providing what turned out to be the game winning goal on a breakaway at the 9:33 mark in the third period. It was Semin's 4th multi-goal game in the month of January giving him 27 goals on the season. In 16 division games this season, Semin has scored 14 goals.

Alex Ovechkin notched his 29th goal of the season on an empty net goal in the closing minute of the game to put the contest out of reach for good. The goal ties Ovechkin with Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Marian Hossa, and Teemu Selanne for the league lead.

Game Notes: The Capitals were once again dominated in the faceoff department 38-27. The only center with a winning percentage on the night was Brooks Laich who won 4 out of 5 for 80%... Rookie Jeff Schultz stepped in for the injured Mike Green and was solid playing 18:49 minutes of ice time and finishing the game +1 defensively. He even saw some action on the penalty kill... Kolzig won his 270th career game moving him into a tie for 30th place all-time with Gilles Meloche.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Around the NHL


Here are some good articles from issues around the NHL. Read, rate, and discuss.

  1. Everyone is talking about the state of the Pittsburgh Penguins and their talk of relocating the franchise. But there is another franchise that arguably is worse shape, the Florida Panthers. An ESPN article by Damien Cox describes their troubles.
  2. The Edmonton Oilers are in involved in talks for a new arena to replace the aging Rexall Place. They have seven years remaining on their current lease and would like to move into a new downtown arena at that time.
  3. Sean Burke has a new home after being claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings.
  4. The highly debated Rail Cam will be used during the NHL All-Star game, and will be available in HD.
  5. Speaking of the All-Star game, Joe Sakic and Brendan Shanahan were named All-Star captains.
  6. The AHL All-Star game will be broadcast to over 100 million homes throughout the US and Canada.
  7. The American Conference defeated the National Conference 6-3 in the ECHL All-Star game last night. The game was available free of charge via b2networks.
  8. I refuse to come to a conclusion about the new uniforms until a see more about them. But here's an article on what Gary Bettman has to say about them.
  9. A nice article on the Hershey Bears recapping their first half of the season. It also announces that Coach Bruce Boudreau will return next season to the Bears as the Capitals have picked up their option in his contract.

Capitals/Hurricanes Preview


Washington Capitals (19-20-7, 45 Points)
at
Carolina Hurricanes (25-18-5, 55 Points)

TV: Comcast Sportsnet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 7:00 PM

Only two games to go before the Capitals reach the All-Star break. And it can't come soon enough as they enter Thursday night's game riding a six game road losing streak and a three game losing streak overall. The Hurricanes enter the game riding a five game point streak posting a record of 4-0-1 over that span.
The Caps lineup will be missing another key defenseman as Mike Green will not accompany the team to Raleigh. He was injured while blocking a Christoph Schubert shot (who has been known to hit 100 mph at times) during the Caps 5-2 loss to the Senators Tuesday night. While it was revealed today that the x-rays on his left leg were negative, he is still listed by the Capitals as being out indefinitely. In his place Washington recalled 20-year old prospect Jeff Schultz to take his place on the blue line. In 35 games for the Hershey Bears this season, Schultz has recorded 1 goal and 5 assists and is plus 11 defensively. It will be his second recall of the season as he played in 2 games in December for the big club.
Alex Ovechkin enters the game riding a 12-game point scoring streak where he has scored 5 goals and 13 assists.
It seems as though the Donald Brashear on the second line experiment lasted all of one game as he is listed on the fourth line in Mike Vogel's pregame report. Another interesting note on the lineup is that Boyd Gordon is listed as the second line center. He has been a solid checking line center all season long, and has shown in Hershey the ability to put up points. Hopefully that will transfer over given the opportunity to play alongside Alexander Semin and Matt Pettinger.
The Caps and Hurricanes will be seeing a lot of each other in the near future. Including tonight's game they will play each other three times in the next 10 days. The Canes come into this contest have having won the previous two in this matchup, outscoring the Caps 9-1 in those games.
A quick start will be critical for the Caps to avoid losing more confidence and because Carolina is 17-0-0 when leading after two periods.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Morning After Thoughts


First of all it feels a little like Ottawa this morning here in DC. What happened to our 70 degree weather? The arctic chill has set in, just as it has for the hopes of the Caps season. But not all is lost, let's take a look at the bright side of things.
  • The Caps are 19-20-7, 45 points and technically only 1 game behind .500.
  • Despite their resent struggles, they are only 5 points out of a playoff spot.
  • We can't be anything but excited about the play of our superstar players Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. They have proven that they are two of the most feared snipers in the game. And at the ages of 21 and 22 respectively, their game has no where to go but up.
  • The Capitals have one of the best minor league teams out there in the Hershey Bears. They have followed up their Calder Cup Championship with a solid season proving that the future is bright for the Capitals young prospects.
On the other hand:
  • The Caps have lost six straight games on the road, including three straight games overall.
  • The defense has been anything but stellar as of late, allowing at least 5 goals in each game on the current road trip.
  • Already missing defenseman John Erskine and Bryan Muir to similar injuries, it looks as though the Caps may have lost the services of another in Mike Green. He took a hard slap shot off his left leg and could be out for a while depending on the results of his x-rays taken after the game. Keep your fingers crossed Caps fans, we can ill afford to loose Green for any significant length of time.
  • The Caps need to work on their faceoffs. Last night's stats proved this fact as the only centers above the 50% mark were Brooks Laich with a 75% success rate and Boyd Gordon with a 60% success rate. Kudos to you Brooks and Boyd. Now how bout helping out your fellow teammates. Here were the others' faceoff win percentages last night: Danius Zubrus at 45%, Brian Sutherby 37.5%, and Jakub Klepis 0 for 5 for 0%. Attention must be given to the little details of the game in order for the team to improve.
  • If the Caps continue to side, they must then make room for some of their top prospects in Hershey. Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleichmann have nothing left to prove at the AHL level. Get them some experience this year so they would be ready for a full time position from the first day of the 07-08 season.
The schedule does not get any easier as the Caps head to Carolina on Thursday to take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions. This will be the first of 3 meetings between the 2 teams over the following 10 days.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ottawa feels more like Florida


Streak Continues as Caps Drop Their Sixth Consecutive Road Game, And Lose Defenseman Mike Green
Ottawa Senators 5, Washington Capitals 2
Boxscore

A new climate nor a new country could snap the Capitals out of their current slide as they brought their sloppy play with them from Florida. The Caps kept pace with the swift footed Senators for most of the game, but suffered from mental lapses that led to Ottawa's goals.
Brent Johnson was solid at times keeping the game from getting out of hand, but allowed a couple soft goals in key situations. With the Caps trailing 1-0, Johnson seemed to freeze the puck following a routine save, but the puck would never find his glove and squeezed through his pads to a waiting Mike Comrie who slammed the gift home for the 2-0 lead. The other soft goal occurred midway through the second period with an assist from an unlucky bounce off the Scotiabank Palace end boards right into the front of the Caps net where Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson converted for the short-handed goal, and a 3-1 lead. The newly aquired center Comrie would then put the game out reach a minute later scoring on a wrist shot for his second of the game and the 4-1 lead.
The Capitals' highlights of the game came from Steve Eminger who recorded his first goal of the season, snapping a 41 game goal scoring drought dating back to last season, on a nice hustle play from Boyd Gordon. Alex Ovechkin also got credited with an assist on the play extending his goal scoring streak to 7 games. Earlier in the game Chris Clark scored his 17th goal of the season on a short-handed goal at the end of the first period that pulled the Caps to within one 2-1.
The news got even worse for the Caps after the game as they learned that Mike Green could soon join fellow defenseman John Erskine and Bryan Muir on the injured reserve list pending the results of the x-rays taken on his left leg. Green was injured while blocking a shot towards the end of the first period. He hobbled to the bench, then even returned for a shift at the beginning of the second period before leaving the game for good. The injury could not come at a worse time for the Caps who are thin on defense to begin with. Now they could be looking at calling up another defenseman before Thursday night's game at Carolina. In all likely hood that man would be Jeff Schultz who made his NHL debut earlier in the season with the Caps.

Caps/Senators Preview


Washington Capitals (19-19-7)
at
Ottawa Senators (26-19-2)

TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 7:30 PM

The Caps will try to end a five game losing streak tonight when they take on the Ottawa Senators from Scotiabank Place. They will have a tough challenge as Ottawa comes into the game as one of the NHL's hottest teams with a 9-1-1 record in their last 11 games. Their run includes them riding a four game winning streak heading into tonight's contest, outscoring their opponents by a 25-10 margin during that span. With centers Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher currently sidelined with knee injuries, wingers Danny Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson have more than picked up the slack. Heatley comes into the game with 8 goals and 15 points in his last 6 games, also recording a plus 13 +/-. Alfredsson, who had started the season off slowly which lead to trade talks of the Senators' captain, has turned his season around as of late and silenced his critics recording 4 goals and 12 points to go along with a plus 11 +/- during his last 4 games.
Brent Johnson will get the start tonight, his first since that forgettable game in Buffalo on December 26th last month. In that game he lasted only the first 7 minutes and 30 seconds of the first period, allowing 4 goals on 6 shots before being replaced by Olaf Kolzig.
In an interesting move yesterday in practice Glen Hanlon moved Donald Brashear to right wing on the second scoring line that includes the Caps hottest player left wing Alexander Semin, who enters the game on a career high five game goal scoring streak, and Center Kris Beech. This will provide the team with a more physical presence and hopefully allow Brashear to open up some more space for the play making Semin.
It will be an important game that only for the Caps mentally, to rebound from the thrashing given them by the Panthers Saturday night, but also in the standings. Depending on the outcome of the Carolina/Florida game, the Caps could find themselves in a tie for last in the Southeast Division should they loose.
As reported from Tarik El-Bashir, Alexander Ovechkin could be sporting a new visor tonight. Besides being "way cool", Tarik describes it as tinted with a blue iridium coating like you would find on a pair of Oakley sunglasses. It should be interesting to see the reaction he gets when he decides to wear it. His mirror-like visor was voted down last season by NHL general managers by a 29-1 vote.