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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caps Triumph in Preseason Opener

Fleischmann's Two Goals Pace 4-1 Win

I know it's too early to say "I told you so," but Tomas Fleischmann's opening night performance is great start on his way to proving his worth to the Washington Capitals. Maybe we should trust Gabby on this one and stop writing off the talented Czech winger. That's all I'm going to say about "Flash."

Simeon Varlamov performed well in his NHL debut stopping all 20 shots he saw in the first twenty minutes of the game. He showed off his outstanding reaction speed and withstood a flurry at the end of the first period. Darren Machesney finshed off the game stopping 10 out of 11 shots over the final two periods. I think there is no doubt that Varlamov has the skills to play at the NHL level right now. The only thing stopping him from starting off the season with the big club is his adjustment not only to the american game and the smaller rinks, but the american culture as well. The Caps will bring him along slowly, but don't be surprised to see him with the big boys sooner rather than later.

Matt Bradley wore the "C" during the game, and showed off his offensive skills too with a nice goal against the Canes' number one netminder, Cam Ward. One of the reasons the Capitals decided to keep Bradley this offseason in place of Matt Cooke was because of his importance to the team off the ice. If he can provide a bit more offensively, like Cooke brought to the team last spring, it will be a great help to the Caps secondary scoring.

The Caps and the Canes square off again Thursday night in the preseason home opener at the Verizon Center.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ted's Excited About the State of the Team

I can honestly say this is the most comfortable I have felt with our team since we bought it from Mr Pollin; we have so many options–so many good young players–so many seasoned vets; so many prospects who can push the vets and will make Hershey a very good team this year.

I share Ted Leonsis' enthusiasm about the current state of the Washington Capitals organization. And when I say organization I mean the Caps, Bears, and Stingrays. This team has never had the depth, in both veterans and quality prospects, that it does right now. Each team will have a chance to compete for their respective championships. And for the first time since the Caps were swept by the Red Wings in the cup finals, this has the feel of a Stanley Cup championship team. We have an exciting season of hockey ahead of us.

An In Depth Look at Josh Godfrey

Defensive prospect Josh Godfrey is one of those players that is going to make the Hershey Bears extremely fun to watch. He has a booming slap shot that has been clocked in the triple digits. Look for him to spend the entire season in the AHL as he looks to develop his all-around game at the professional level.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tarik on Fleischmann

I have gone on record before that I do not agree with the bashing by the fans that Tomas Fleischmann receives. I'm with Gabby on this one, Fleischmann will surprise Caps fans this season and become a solid contributor to this team. Here is Tarik's take.

Season Preview

Here's a preview of the Caps from the Dallas Morning News. Not too accurate when it comes to the line pairings but still worth the quick read.

Hockey's Back!

Now that the exhibition season has started, we can officially say that "Hockey's Back!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stingrays Secure Net with Signing of Johnson, Goepfert

The goaltending situation for the Capitals organization will be an interesting one to keep an eye on this fall. The Caps seem set with Jose Theodore and Brent Johnson in net. But where their three prospects, Simeon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, and Daren Machesney play will be another story. In order to ensure enough playing time, one of the three will have to find another place to play. Will the South Carolina Stingrays be the place for Varlamov or Neuvirth this season, possibly. But in the meantime, the Stingrays have solidified their goaltending for the upcoming season.

From the Stingrays:

North Charleston, SC – The South Carolina Stingrays, ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League announced today the signing of goaltenders Josh Johnson and Bobby Goepfert for the 2008-09 season. In keeping with club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Johnson, 24, was 23-13-1 with a 2.80 goals-against average, and a .908 save percentage last season, his first with the Stingrays and first professionally. The Esko, MN native also recorded two shut-outs in his 37 games, and was named the Rbk Hockey Goalie of the Week for November 5-11 and December 24-30 and was the RBC Financial Group ECHL Saver of the Month for December.

“Josh provided some very solid goaltending last year,” said Head Coach Jared Bednar. “Having him back this season gives us a goaltender that has proven he can win at this level.”

Prior to turning professional, the 6-foot, 195-pound net minder spent four years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth posting a 22-20-4 record with three shutouts and a 2.71 goals-against average in 51 career games.

Goepfert, 25, joins the Stingrays after playing his rookie season with the Augusta Lynx. Originally a sixth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins (171st overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, the Kings Park, NY native was 16-15-1 last season with a 2.60 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

“Bobby is going to be a tremendous addition to our hockey club,” commented Bednar. “In order to have a successful team on the ice, it’s important to have two strong goaltenders, and with Josh and Bobby, the Stingrays have a chance to win every night.”

Prior to playing with the Lynx, Goepfert played four years of NCAA hockey; two years with Providence College before transferring for his final two years at St. Cloud State. In his four years, Goepfert was 58-39-15 with nine shut-outs and a 2.31 goals-against average. Also while in college, Goepfert played alongside Chris Chaput, T.J. McElroy and Andrew Gordon, all of whom logged time with the Stingrays last season.

Mark your Calendars – the Stingrays open up the 2008-09 season at home against the Augusta Lynx on Saturday, October 18. The game will be at the North Charleston Coliseum starting at 7:05 p.m.

Don’t miss any of the fast-paced, hard-hitting action of the 2008-09 season; purchase your ticket package today! For more information, including benefits, pricing, and package options, call the Stingrays at 744-2248 or view the information online at
Stingrays Hockey – A Whole Lot Cooler!

Josh Johnson
Born Jan 25 1984 -- Esko, MN
Height 6.00 -- Weight 170 -- Shoots R
Season   Team                  Lge    GP   Min   GA  EN SO   GAA   W   L   T   Svs    Pct
2002-03  Green Bay Gamblers    USHL   31  1484   73   0  2  2.95  11  14   1   746  0.911
2003-04  U. of Minn-Duluth     NCAA    9   451   18   0  1  2.39   5   4   0   195  0.915
2004-05  U. of Minn-Duluth     NCAA   17   845   42   0  0  2.98   6   5   2   378  0.900
2005-06  U. of Minn-Duluth     NCAA    7   358   25   0  0  4.19   3   4   0   140  0.848
2007-08  SC Stingrays          ECHL   38  2229  104   3  2  2.80  23  13   1  1030  0.908

Bobby Goepfert
Born May 9 1983 -- Kings Park, NY
Height 5.10 -- Weight 170 -- Shoots L
Selected by Pittsburgh Penguins round 6 #171 overall 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Season   Team                  Lge    GP   Min   GA  EN SO   GAA   W   L   T   Svs    Pct
2000-01  Cedar Rapids          USHL   45  2565  125   4  1  2.92  25  12   4  1360  0.916
2001-02  Cedar Rapids          USHL   51  2918   99   4  8  2.04  27  16   5  1446  0.936
2002-03  Providence College    NCAA   13   754   30   0  1  2.39   6   6   1   365  0.924
2003-04  Providence College    NCAA   28  1637   69   0  2  2.53  15   9   3   772  0.918
2005-06  St. Cloud State       NCAA   38  2264   83   0  3  2.20  20  14   4  1010  0.924
2006-07  St. Cloud State       NCAA   35  2149   82   0  3  2.29  17  10   7  1004  0.924
2007-08  Augusta Lynx          ECHL   33  1798   78   3  3  2.60  16  15   1   811  0.912

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Inferno Live to See Another Day

(Video courtesy of B2Networks)

The Stingrays were up against a team facing elimination, not only with their season on the line but possibly their franchise as well. The Columbia Inferno returned home Friday night trailing two games to none in the South Division Finals. Another loss and who knows when we might see the Inferno again as they will not be competing in the ECHL next season while they attempt to find a new arena to play in. In addition to that, the Carolina Coliseum's small ice surface, with a quality that makes the Verizon Center's ice sheet look state of the art, greatly favored the home team on their way to a 5-3 win in game 3.

Travis Morin had two 1st period power play goals for the 'Rays, but the Inferno also tallied two goals with the extra man as the teams finished the opening frame tied 2-2. The goals give Morin 9 so far in the post-season, a total that ties him with teammate Marty Guerin for the league lead.

The Inferno jumped ahead 3-2 just 2:28 into the 2nd period on a goal by Liam Huculak. But the Stingrays responded a little over halfway through the middle frame on a shorthanded goal by Trent Campbell, his 4th of the playoffs.

The game stayed tied until just under five minutes to go when Peter Tsimikalis scored directly off an offensive faceoff win for the Inferno, giving them a 4-3 lead. The Stingrays tried to rally late but an empty net goal by Tsimikalis put the game out of reach, meaning that game 4 will take place Saturday night with the 'Rays now holding a 2-1 series lead.

Check out the highlights of the game above which included a couple good fights at the end.

Zetterberg's Sick Goal

An absolutely sick goal by the Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg. You have to check this out. A 180 backhand goal while falling down.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guerin's Hat Trick Gives Stingrays 2-0 Series Lead

Marty Guerin
Photo: Mic Smith / The Post and Courier

No, not that Guerin, Bill just finished up his first season as the captain of the New York Islanders. But Marty Guerin, a rookie out of Miami (Ohio) is proving to be a valuable asset to the South Carolina Stingrays this season. He now leads the ECHL with 9 goals during the post-season thanks to a hat trick in the 'Rays 5-2 win over the Columbia Inferno in game 2.

Andrew Gordon and Patrick McNeill also made their series debuts Tuesday night and both made an instant impact. Gordon got the scoring started with a short-handed goal 5:10 into the 1st period. Then after the Stingrays squandered a 2-0 lead, Gordon started what ended up being the key play of the game just 2:26 into the final period. He created a turnover in his own end thanks to an excellent lift check, then provided the outlet pass to Stephen Werner that send the 'Rays on a two-on-one break. Werner then found Guerin who beat Inferno goaltender Todd Ford for his second goal of the night. That goal ended up being the game-winner.

Patrick McNeill also added an assist on Travis Morin's power play goal that gave the Stingrays a 4-2 lead. The goal was Morin's 7th of the post-season putting him in second place in the ECHL behind his teammate Guerin.

The Stingrays outshot the Inferno 40-17 during the game. Davis Parley stopped 15 shots on his way to his 5th victory of the playoffs.

The win gives South Carolina a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Inferno with game 3 now shifting to Columbia on Friday. The 'Rays are just one win away from the Conference Finals.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stingrays Take Game One 2-1

(Photo by Mic Smith - The Post and Courier)
Box Score

The re-enforcements arrived and payed immediate dividends for the South Carolina Stingrays in their opening game of the South Division Finals.

With the Hershey Bears eliminated from post-season play, Steve Pinizzotto (pictured, center) and Grant McNeill made their playoff debuts this season in the ECHL. Pinizzotto wasted no time in making an impact as he tallied the game-winner at the 1:31 mark of the 3rd period giving the home team a 1-0 lead in this best of five series.

Davis Parley stopped 21 of 22 shots on the way towards his 4th win of the playoffs.

On Tuesday, the Stingrays are expected to have forward Andrew Gordon and defenceman Patrick McNeill back in the lineup for game two. Their additions will further strengthen the Stingrays hopes of a run at their 3rd Kelly Cup championship and 1st since 2001.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Time to Jump on the Stingrays Bandwagon

With the Caps and Bears seasons' now over, it's time to turn our attention to the South Carolina Stingrays and their run towards the Kelly Cup.

The 'Rays begin their South Division Finals series against their instate rivals, the Columbia Inferno, this Sunday at 7:05 pm at the North Charleston Coliseum. It will be a best-of-five series with the rest of the schedule as follows:

Game 2: @ South Carolina Tuesday, April 29th at 7:05 pm
Game 3: @ Columbia Friday, May 2nd at 7:05 pm
Game 4: @ Columbia Saturday, May 3rd at 7:05 pm (If Necessary)
Game 5: @ South Carolina Tuesday, May 5th at 7:05 pm (If Necessary)

During the regular reason the Stingrays went 7-3 against the Inferno, including a 3-2 record at home.

South Carolina will also be getting some re-enforcements for this series from the Hershey Bears. Forwards Andrew Gordon and Steve Pinizzotto plus defencemen Patrick McNeill and Grant McNeill are all set to rejoin the Stingrays since the Bears season has come to an end. According to Andrew Miller, Pinizzotto and Grant McNeill will be ready for game 1 on Saturday, while Gordon and Patrick McNeill will be ready for game 2 on Tuesday. This could be a windfall for the 'Rays as Gordon was tied for 8th place in the AHL playoffs in points having tallied 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 five games with the Bears. During the regular season, Gordon had 8 goals and 6 assists in just 11 games with South Carolina.

Should they advance past the Inferno, the Stingrays would face the winner of the Cincinnati Cyclones-Reading Royals series for the right to move on to the Kelly Cup Finals.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thank You Fans

From the Washington Capitals:

The Next Wave of Prospects Hit Hershey

Josh Godfrey

With their junior seasons now over, defensemen Josh Godfrey and Karl Alzer have joined the Hershey Bears for the remainder of their playoff run. Now these are two players that should have Caps fans everywhere excited about what they bring to the table.

Godfrey, the Caps 2nd-round choice in the 2007 NHL draft, is another offensive defensemen that brings a cannon of a shot from the point. He had 17 goals and 34 assists in 60 regular season games with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL and was a +31. Godfrey should provide immediate dividends to the Bears power-play.

Alzner, the Caps 1st-round choice in the 2007 NHL draft, is a franchise defensemen who could have contributed to the Capitals this season if they have chosen to keep him in Washington. The team decided against rushing him though and returned him to the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL for another year of seasoning in juniors. He had 7 goals and 29 assists in 60 games during the regular season and was a +26.

If the Bears can pull out a victory tonight in Wilkes-Barre, both players could be available for game 6 back in Hershey according to Tim Leone. Now that would be exciting to see.

"Don't Stop Believin"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stingrays Advance, Bears Live to Fight Another Day

The South Carolina Stingrays jumped out to a 2-0 lead, then held on for dear life to advance to the next round of the ECHL playoffs, the South Division Finals.

Late in the 1st period Matt Scherer tallied his 1st goal of the playoffs to put the Stingrays on top. Then in the 2nd period Capitals' prospect Travis Morin notched his 6th goal of the postseason, on the power play, to give SC the worst lead in hockey, a two goal lead. Goaltender Davis Parley made it stand up though, despite the fact the Gwinnett Gladiators outshot the Stingrays 20-6 in the final frame, they could not beat the 25-year old netminder. Parley had his 1st shutout of the postseason, his 5th of the season, and South Carolina survived another game 5 for the second straight series. They will face the winner of the Texas-Columbia series which is surprisingly enough, headed to a game 5 even though the Wildcatters finished the regular season with a 38 point lead over the Inferno. I guess that is why they play the games, right?

The Hershey Bears got some help from a familiar face in Eric Fehr on their way to 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Fehr, who had just returned to the Bears following the Capitals playoff exit, provided two helpers, including the game-winner, 20 seconds into overtime on Alexandre Giroux's 2nd goal of the game. The Bears will now head back to Wilkes-Barre for game 5 with their backs still against the wall trailing the Penguins 3 games to 1.

"Don't Stop Believin"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Don't Stop Believin"

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

And just like that our season was over. It felt like someone had punched you in the gut, my stomach hurt, my throat began to swell. I can only imagine what the players must have been feeling when Joffrey Lupul's backhander found a it's way past Cristobal Huet. It was heart-breaking and completely unexpected. Nobody could have possibly imagined that the Flyers would come into Verizon Center, less than 24 hours after their own heart-breaking and demoralizing loss in game 6, and steal a win from this team of destiny.

But that's hockey. That's why we love this game. The passion displayed from each and every member of both sides is what makes it so special. My hats go off to the Flyers, they are the heels of hockey, a team you love to hate. A team that gets under your skin and makes you despise them with every fiber of your being. But without them, I wouldn't feel as passionately about the Caps as I do. So, I guess I have to say thank you to the Flyers and their fans. Let's do it again next year.

And speaking of next year, is it here yet? I'm already looking forward to rookie camp in July, a chance to start anew. Another round of promising young Capitals about to make their impact on the capitol of hockeytown.

As the off season progresses we'll be looking at what the Caps have to do in depth in order to extend their playoff run next spring. It seems as though they are already working on it though. Earlier today GM George McPhee, while declining to give specifics, did confirm that Bruce Boudreau is going anywhere. That would have been the number one priority on my offseason to do list for the Caps. For now, here's a short list of what's next:

1. Sign Cristobal Huet.

- I'm not going to get into the specifics of what they should offer him in terms of years and dollars. But the Caps made the choice this season that he is our number one goaltender. In response, Huet put together the best month of his career, and made one highlight save after another. McPhee made the great move to get him here, now he just needs to close it out and keep him here.

2. Upgrade the Defense

- If there was one thing that this series made me realize is that the weakest part of this team is it's defensive group. That's not to knock any of the players themselves as they played some of the best hockey of there lives. Specifically John Erskine and Steve Eminger grew leaps and bounds during the postseason. Let's hope they can carry it over into next season. And when I say they need to upgrade the defense, I'm not saying that they need to go out and sign some stud free agent. They have prospects coming through the ranks that will be ready to contribute soon. Karl Alzner and Sami Lepisto should be given every opportunity to make the team out of camp this fall. Oh and did I mention Steve Eminger, he'll be a restricted free agent this summer. Qualify him and play him next season, he has earned a place on this team.

3. Figuring out the Forwards

- This is going to be the hardest job for McPhee this summer. What to do with potential free agents Fedorov and Cooke while realizing that this lineup will already be adding two players this fall with the healthy returns of Michael Nylander and Chris Clark. Plus, prospects such as Chris Bourque, Andrew Gordon, Francois Bouchard, and Mathieu Perreault will all be fighting for a spot in camp. At the same time you also have Eric Fehr, who seems to be hitting his stride, and Tomas Fleischmann, who continues to develop, fighting for playing time. It's going to be a logjam up front. I'd love to see Fedorov and Cooke back with the team this fall, but there just might not be room for them.

This summer will be interesting. It's time to rest and recharge as we get ready for the Caps to make the leap next season into a Stanley Cup favorite. Just one request for all the fans out there, be ready to go from day one this fall. Let's "Rock the Red" again real soon.

In the meantime, don't forget about our prospects who are fighting for their lives tonight. The Hershey Bears face elimination trailing 3-0 to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. While the South Carolina Stingrays face the Gwinnett Gladiators in the finale of their best of five series tonight in Charleston. Good luck to both teams in carrying on the Caps tradition of "Don't Stop Believin."

Monday, April 21, 2008 Visits the Stingrays

Capital Fanatic
Charleston, SCThe Stingrays won in dramatic fashion Saturday night. Travis Morin tallied what seemed to be the game winner halfway through the third period on a power play wrist shot from the slot. But a turnover by defenseman Nate Kiser led to the tying goal with a little bit less than five minutes to go. Kiser would redeem himself in overtime as he notched the game winner on a "laser" of a shot from the point as described by head coach Jared Bednar. For the complete game recap check out the Charleston Post and Courier. Also, this is a good chance to welcome Andrew Miller into the blogosphere with his blog Rays the Roof covering everything about the South Carolina Stingrays.

(Stingrays Head Coach Jared Bednar behind the bench)

Here was coach Jared Bednar's thoughts on the win after the game:

Having won their 5th straight playoff game, here is Bednar's response to the question of whether his team has a can't loose mentality:

Bednar's thoughts on Monday night's game at Gwinnett and the chance to close out the Gladiators:

Bednar on the team's first line and also the unsung heroes of the game:

Bednar on the Capitals prospects (Travis Morin, Sean Collins, Sasha Pokulok, and Stephen Werner) in South Carolina:

Bednar on the Caps run at the end of the season:

And lastly, the Stingrays found themselves in the same position the Caps are in during their 1st round matchup with the Augusta Lynx, having to win 3 straight games in order to advance. Here is Bednar's advice for the Caps:

Here are some photos of the Caps prospects from the game:

Sasha Pokulok

Travis Morin

Stephen Werner

So while the Caps are battling in Philadelphia tonight, keep an eye on the Stingrays boxscore as they try to sweep the Gladiators and move on to the next round.

Thursday, April 17, 2008 is Heading to South Carolina!

That's right, while the Capitals are in the middle of their own playoff battle with the Flyers, the Stingrays have moved on to the second round of the ECHL playoffs after coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Augusta Lynx 3-2 in their best of five first round matchup.

As a result, I'll be able to see game 2 of their matchup with the Gwinnett Gladiators in Charleston this weekend. Currently, the Stingrays have 4 Capitals prospects in their lineup:

D Sasha Pokulok
D Patrick McNeill
RW Stephen Werner
C Travis Morin

I'll be able to interview the coach Jared Bednar and players after the game. We all know how hard it is to find information on our prospects in South Carolina, so I pose the question to all you Caps fans out there. What questions would you like to have answered about our prospects with the Stingrays?

I'll have a full report next week.

No More Puppy Dogs and Rainbows

How do the Caps beat the Flyers? Two simple steps: don't make stupid, rookie mistakes; and beat 'em up.

Anyone who has watched the first three games, especially game 3, has seen the errant, pressured, dribbling passes made by the Caps which have resulted in turnovers, and, in a few cases, goals. This also applies to 1-on-3 or -4 "breakaways" with no support which limit our scoring chances; or poor positioning around the net that leads to few rebounds and second-chance scores. (I apologize if that sounds like basketball and not hockey, I'm still not used to hockey terminology.) I'm basically a brand new hockey watcher, and even I can see these problems. These are areas where the Flyers are outperforming the Caps. They make fewer errant passes, have solid breakaways which often result in scores, and have had more rebound scores than the Caps.

Another way the Flyers are outperforming the Caps lies in what many announcers like to call "physicality". I'm not sure that's even a word. OK, it is, but it doesn't mean what they think it does. The Flyers have harassed the Caps all series, whether it's hanging out in the crease, poke-checking, or decking Huet. (Side note: when the Miserable Philly Fans booed Scott Hartnell's goalie interference penalty, were they booing because he had spent more time in the crease for the first three games than Huet, or were they booing because "their guy" got caught?) They've been caught a few times, but come on Caps, it's the playoffs. Get your sacks into the game and knock some freaking heads.

I'll put it another way: If the school bully's picking on you, do you sit down and have a nice chat about how he should turn his life around? HELL NO!!! You punch him in the nose, kick him in the nuts, throw dirt in his eyes, and stab him in the back!!! Is this all a back-handed lobbying effort for more Brashear playing time? maybe. But if your game of superior finesse isn't winning, maybe it's time to thug it out. Just don't be so overt that you get caught all the time. Philly might get caught, but apparently our power play died the same day as our puck handling.

Come on, I hate losing to fans who wear orange shirts whose "Vengeance Now" campaign makes no sense. (More on that later). Win this one for the Effing Gipper. IT'S GAME TIME!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stingrays Update

I figured we could use some uplifting news today. So let's check in on our ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. From the Charleston Post and Courier:

Stingrays survive, force decisive playoff game

By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's no such thing as a bad shot, just ask South Carolina Stingrays winger Trent Campbell.

Campbell got the game-winning goal less than four minutes into the second overtime period and Marty Guerin added two goals in regulation as South Carolina rallied to beat Augusta, 3-2, Tuesday night before a crowd of 1,849 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

With the victory, the Stingrays forced a fifth and deciding game in the best-of-five Kelly Cup Playoff series with the Lynx. Game 5 is tonight beginning at 7 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

The South Carolina Stingrays' Marty Guerin (9) maneuvers with the puck during the first period against the August Lynx in Game 4 of their ECHL playoff series Tuesday at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

The South Carolina Stingrays' Marty Guerin (9) maneuvers with the puck during the first period against the August Lynx in Game 4 of their ECHL playoff series Tuesday at the North Charleston Coliseum.

South Carolina has thrown everything but the Zamboni driver at Augusta goalie Bobby Goepfert during the series, but the former Providence College star has been equal to the task.

So when Campbell's relatively weak shot from the left wing hit Goepfert's shoulder, bounced up and trickled down his back and past the goal line for the game-winning goal, no one was more surprised than Campbell.

"Between the periods, everyone kept talking about getting shots on net," said Campbell, who recorded his first goal of the series. "You're not going to score unless you shoot, and I was just trying to get something on net. Usually good things will happen for you if you get it on net, and finally we got a bounce to go our way."

The Stingrays' game-winner came on what at first appeared to be a harmless play. Stephen Werner got the puck to Campbell just outside the Stingrays' offensive zone. Campbell skated in and had to fight off Augusta defenseman Jamie McKinven just to get the shot off.

"I was trying to hold (McKinven) off and get something on net," Campbell said. "It certainly wasn't the hardest shot I've ever taken, but I guess it was hard enough to go in, and I'm not complaining. I saw the puck hit his arm, then his side, but I didn't see it go in."

The Stingrays came pouring off the bench to mob Campbell and celebrate the team's second overtime win in as many nights.

"There's no such thing as a bad shot, especially in overtime," said Stingrays captain Cail MacLean. "Anything on net in my opinion was going to be a good shot. We've really struggled to score on (Goepfert), so to finally get one past him was a great feeling."

After dropping the first two games of the series in Augusta, few gave the Stingrays a chance to rally back and send it into a decisive Game 5.

"Two days ago things were looking pretty bleak," said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. "The guys in the locker room believed that we could get it done. An outsider looking in probably thought we had no chance to come back and force a Game 5. But we believed it and that's why we're still playing."

Rookie goalie Josh Johnson was solid again, stopping 27 of 29 shots, including a game-saving stop on Matt Christie in the final two minutes of regulation.

"Josh faced the pressure again and showed his mental toughness," MacLean said. "The save he made on Christie in the third period was the difference in the game. (Christie) makes that and the season is over for us."

The Stingrays got off to another fast start, scoring less than two minutes into the game on Guerin's third goal of the series.

"Marty has really shown what he can do offensively in this series," Bednar said. "He seems to have really come to life with Werner and Campbell."

The Lynx tied the game at 1 just before the end of the opening period on Travis Fuller's goal with just 1 second left.

The Lynx grabbed a 2-1 lead on Matt Auffrey's goal less than two minutes into the second period.

Guerin tied the game up at 2 on a great individual effort midway through the third period.

First Period: 1. SC, Guerin 3 (Campbell), 1:57. 2. A, Fuller 2 (Christie), 19:59. Penalties: Brooks, A (holding), 5:53; Campbell, SC (roughing), 5:53; Slattengren, A (holding) 7:28; Rawlyk, SC (tripping), 9:31.

Second Period: 3. A, Auffrey 2 (Christie), 2:42. Penalties: Battaglia, A (hooking), 4:27; Bench minor, A (too many men on the ice), 15:18.

Third Period: 4. SC, Guerin 4 (unassisted), 9:21. Penalties: MacLean, SC (holding), :48; Rawlyk, SC (goal-tender interference), 12:12; Collins, SC (hooking), 17:53; Slattengren, A (hooking), 18:25.

Overtime: No goals. Penalties: Veideman, A (holding), 15:06.

2nd Overtime: 5. SC, Campbell 1 (Werner, Pokulok), 3:36. Penalties: No penalties.

Shots on goal: Stingrays 7-12-13-10-1-43; Augusta 7-10-9-2-1-29. Penalties: Stingrays 5-10; Augusta 6-12. Power play: Stingrays 0 of 5; Augusta 0 of 4. Goalies: Stingrays -Josh Johnson (2-0-0) 29 shots, 27 saves. Augusta - Bobby Goepfert (2-2-0) 43 shots, 40 saves. Att: 1,849.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mike Wise, more playoff run-up reflections

Before my belated random boobery for today, check out Mike Wise's column from yesterday's Washington Post. He summed up basically everything I would have to say about both weekend games in that article. My job here is done.

(little side note: don't sleep on Mike Wise. He's been writing some good columns for the Post lately.)

Anyway, back to more important matters, more of my retrospective on the Caps' legendary (yes, I know exactly what I'm writing) playoff run. More precisely, the MVP debate and my favorite goals from the run (at least those that I saw. Remember, I didn't have Versus until a week ago). First off, the MVP debate. During The Run (yup, it's officially capitalized now), the home fans all cast their vocal ballots for Hart Trophy. However, this revived the age-old MVP debates, as the Caps had not made the playoffs. What exactly constitutes value, in terms of an MVP award? I usually think of two general arguments when discussing MVP credentials, and they are usually at odds.

One theory is what I call "The Playoff Contender Argument", which states that a player can only be most valuable if his team makes the playoffs. In other words, without that player, the team would not have made the playoffs. I agree with this theory often, because at its root, every sport is about winning, and the right mixture of players, coaches, and fans that enables winning. If a team doesn't win, then the best player on that team is really the best of the worst, and his contributions are seemingly nil. With him, the team lost; it's not a logical stretch to assume the team would lose just as well without him. This argument uses the player's team's playoff contention as the primary subjective tie-breaker when comparing objective stats. I don't like it because it values team success over individual success, which is the purpose of determining an MVP.

The second argument is "The Relative Position Argument", which compares a player among his peers at his given position. Another way of looking at it is this: if you were to pick a full fantasy team, who would you pick first? Bill James, the ultimate baseball stat geek, even came up with a way to measure players this way: Value Over Replacement Player, where a replacement player is one who contributes the league average at that position. I like this standpoint because it takes all players into account, and has the potential, albeit a slim one, to be entirely based on stats.

Fortunately, these two schools of thought are not mutually exclusive this year, as Alex Ovechkin is clearly the best player on a playoff contender; and if I was starting a team, in my completely unbiased opinion, I would probably pick Ovie first. How do others pick an MVP, even if it's only for their own arguments' sake?

Caps Sign Francois Bouchard

From the Washington Capitals:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed right wing Francois Bouchard to a three-year entry-level contract beginning next season, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bouchard, 19, led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in scoring in 2006-07, posting 125 points and a league-high 80 assists. A 6’1’’, 188-pound native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Bouchard recorded 92 points (36 goals, 56 assists) in 68 games for Baie-Comeau in 2007-08, leading his team in scoring and finishing eighth in the league.

A two-time QMJHL Player of the Week in 2006-07, Bouchard posted a 22-game point streak on way to winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy, given to the league’s leading scorer. Bouchard was named the QMJHL’s Player of the Month in December of this season, after posting 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 11 games.

Bouchard was Washington’s second-round choice, 35th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He joined the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) at the end of his QMJHL season and had one goal in four regular-season games for the Bears, who begin the Calder Cup playoffs tomorrow night.

The Capitals have now signed five of their selections from the 2006 Entry Draft (Nicklas Backstrom, Simeon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard).

Francois Bouchard

Position: Right Wing

Born: April 26, 1988 (Sherbrooke, Quebec)

Height: 6’1” Weight: 188 Shoots: Left

Drafted: Capitals’ second-round choice, 35th overall, in the 2006 Entry Draft

Regular Season Playoffs

Year Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM

2004-05 Baie Comeau QMJHL 54 11 13 24 13 6 1 1 2 2

2005-06 Baie Comeau QMJHL 69 33 69 102 66 4 1 0 1 6

2006-07 Baie Comeau QMJHL 68 45 80 125 72 11 7 11 18 4

2007-08 Baie Comeau QMJHL 68 36 56 92 70 5 1 1 2 6

Hershey AHL 4 1 0 1 2 - - - - -

* Won Jean Beliveau Trophy (2007) * QMJHL Second All-Star Team (2007)

Another piece to the puzzle is under contract. That 2006 draft is starting to look pretty good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Biron Dead-On, Series Tied 1-1

If only Alexander Semin's shot doesn't hit the post and finds it's way in, and if only Matt Cooke converted his two chances wide open chances in front of the net, then maybe the Caps find to way to win again and take a 2-0 series advantage into Philly. But that didn't happen, a combination of bad luck on the offensive side and great goaltending on the part of Martin Biron led to a Flyers shutout win and a series now shortened to a best of five. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Heading into Tuesday night's contest, the Caps main focus needs to be on converting their power play chances, controling the puck on their way into the offensive zone, and preventing the home run pass on the defensive end.

As a result of today's events, a couple of lineup questions to ponder:

Jeff Schultz made his first career postseason appearance after missing game one and was clearly rusty. With as well as Steve Eminger played while Schultz was out, does Boudreau put Eminger back in the lineup for game 3? Might be a good idea.

A lineup change I would definitely like to see is Eric Fehr taking the place of Tomas Fleischmann. Fehr size and play in the corners would be a good matchup against this physical Flyers team.

Overall, the main thing the Caps have to do is just relax. This is going to be a long and tough series. Nobody expected them to win this series in four. One thing is for sure, this team will definitely be prepared for game 3, and having won both contests in Philly during the regular season, they should know what to expect from the Philly faithful.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Big Rob, back from his month-long slumber

So what’s happened since I last updated? Not much? All kidding aside, it’s a good thing I didn’t update for the past month. Being well aware of the futility of Washington sports lately, I knew well enough not to praise the Caps before they made the playoffs. Too many teams have gone on winning, only to fall an inch short of their goal. I didn’t want to be an ├╝ber-bandwagon jumper and dub them the best team in hockey. My posts would have looked something like this:

“Good win by the Caps last night. If it was on Versus, I couldn’t watch it because I’m too cheap to pay the extra $2/month. But don’t get your hopes up, we still need to win every game and hope for some charity from Carolina.”

Fortunately, that last sentence came true to the word. Other than the TB game, the road victories weren’t by the biggest margins, but the home games were complete dominance on all ends. Based on the last month’s performance, these are the reasons I feel confident in the Caps this postseason:

- Cristobal Huet Lewis and the News. This guy has dominated since he came here. Check out his stats, and you’ll see he has far outperformed his career stats while in Washington. On any other team, i.e. one that didn’t include the winner of the Ross, Richard, and possible Hart trophy, he would be a strong candidate for Team MVP. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the rest of us, there’s …

- Alexander Ovechkin. It’s easy to say that the league leader in goals and points, and front-runner for MVP, gives his team an edge in the playoffs, but Ovechkin is different. He looks like he’s having fun while playing the game. Radical concept. Think of Alex Rodriguez or Tom Brady from last year. Did they look like they had fun? (I won’t even mention the NBA; nobody looks like they have fun during NBA games.) They looked almost angry, vengeful in the case of Brady. Ovechkin flashes his broad, gap-toothed grin after every goal, even those he doesn’t score. That infectious enthusiasm has a great effect on the team, and almost as importantly on…

- The fans. I can only remember watching two games on TV when the fans were so loud you could not hear the officials: Paul O’Neill’s last game at Yankee Stadium, when the fans chanted his name so loud, you could barely hear the ump’s intentionally loud strike calls and the crack of the bat; and the Caps’ playoff clinching game against Florida. Add that enthusiasm to the hype generated by the new “Rock the Red” campaign, and woe betides the team who takes the Verizon Center lightly.

I won’t get three rounds and 16 victories ahead of myself and give the Cup to the Caps; I’m just saying this team looks good at the right time. If sports fans have learned anything this year, it’s this: if a team gets hot at the right time of year, they can win a championship. Look at the Giants. When the Skins beat them down in the Meadowlands on the third-to-last weekend of the season, who would have thought they would eventually win four games in the playoffs and shock the NFL in an inspired Super Bowl against the first undefeated team in 36 years? They just got hot at the right time, same as the Colorado Rockies. That’s all it takes to win: a hot hand at the right time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Stanley Cup Playoffs Are Here!

Caps-Flyers: Most Compelling Stat

From OFB:

Philly’s top 4 scorers are a combined -11. Washington’s top 4 are +75.

That's the best breakdown of this series I've seen yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Welcome to the Southeast Division Steven

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the draft lottery and the right to select Steven Stamkos with the #1 overall pick in the draft. So next season we'll have to look forward to playing against a team with Vincent Lecavalier and Stamkos as their top two centers. Of course they still have to sign Lecavalier to a long term deal as he is eligible for free agency following the '08-'09 season, and we'll have to see how bad his shoulder injury is. But Tampa and the Southeast Division got a lot better today.

Playoff Schedule Released

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Flyers
Friday, April 11, Philadelphia at Washington, 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 13, Philadelphia at Washington, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, April 15, Washington at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 17, Washington at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 19, Philadelphia at Washington, 1 p.m.
Monday, April 21, Washington at Philadelphia, TBD
Tuesday, April 22, Philadelphia at Washington, TBD

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get Them While They Last

Your Southeast Division Champions!

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hurricanes Choke in Carolina

Hi, my name is Scott Walker and I'm a diveaholic.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ovechkin Stands Alone

He's now statistically the best left wing in NHL history.

All I can say is, what's next?

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Caps' Goal of the Night

When the Caps lose 5-0, it's usually pretty easy to do the Goal of the Night shtick. "The Goal of the Night goes to whichever goose laid an egg for the Caps." har har har. I will change he rules of my recent creation, and allow saves in this category. Now that I've bent the rules permanently, after watching the game's highlights, this award is actually easier than I had thought. Therefore, without further ado ...

Big Rob's SAVE of the Night (March 19, 2008):
Nikolai Khabi-BOOO-lin (17:06, 3rd period)

For those of us who could not watch this game for one reason or another, you owe it to yourself to see his stop of Sea-Man's would-be goal around 17:00 in the 3rd. It's on par with that jaw-dropping goal when the Michigan kid scooped the puck and fed it from behind the net. They replayed it twice on the game highlights at the Caps' official site. Once you see it, consider this: the Hawks were winning 5-0 with about 3:00 left in the game. The Booler could've easily let it go, nobody would've blamed him. But his instincts took over, and he was just physically capable enough to dive for the puck. That's a once-in-a-lifetime save. What a play.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Latest Capital Fanatic: Big Rob

Since Capital Fanatic is "The Fan's Voice of Washington Sports", I'll introduce myself as a new Caps fan. Except for my time at Indiana University, I've lived in the DC area all my life. My sports allegiances lie with the Skins and IU basketball, with a budding interest in the Nats. (Why not the O's? Two words: Peter Angelos. And they're from Baltimore. I might as well root for the Ravens.)

I avoided hockey growing up for a couple of reasons. First, the Caps always ... ALWAYS lost to the Penguins in the playoffs. I knew spring was coming when I saw that the Caps were in the playoffs, had an "insurmountable series lead" against the Pens, then blew it in a matter of days. Why root for a team that will only crush your spirits?

The second, and more important reason why I avoided hockey, is because of the evil notion of ties. Back in the day, hockey had something called "Ties". These odd games came when both teams were deadlocked after four periods. Why not try shootouts, as they do now? Who knows, all that mattered was they both really tried hard, and they both got a nice little chit. How quaint. Bull. I could write a long rant about how ties are anathema to sports, but I'll save that for any potential comments.

So when Pope started his Capitals Crusade a few years ago, I was more than a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. "Hockey? Come on. The Caps suck, their uniforms are ugly, and hockey is just boring." I was wrong about the third point, the team is much better than they were last year, and their uniforms are cool as hell.

Besides, what's not to like about this team? They have some great young talent; their management has shown a willingness to build from within, while pulling off some good trades
lately; their uniforms are a refreshing take on an old design; their players' names easily lend themselves to nicknames; our star player is missing one of his front teeth, hockey player-style; and you can design entire drinking games around Craig Laughlin while mimicking his voice.

In short, I'm now a Caps fan.

As a first fan duty, the goal of the night for March 18, 2008: Alex Ovechkin's "geometry goal", as described by Al Koken, to make it 4-2. It almost happened a few seconds earlier with the empty net, but when I considered:

- it was completely accidental and meaningless, all we needed was to clear the puck, and the game would be over;
- as soon as it hit the board, I knew it was going in, which makes any play better; and
- one of their guys got injured on the accidental, meaningless play

I had to make Ovie's Geometry Goal ...

Big Rob's Goal of the Night (March 18, 2008)

Karl Alzner in the News

Karl Alzner, who will be turning pro as soon as the Calgary Hitmen's playoff run is over, was recognized yesterday for another outstanding season with the WHL club. Here's the article from the Calgary Sun:

Alzner a Hit at awards


Karl Alzner takes great pride in his attire.

As the teams' self-professed fashion aficionado, Alzner showed up to last night's Petro-Canada Calgary Hitmen Play Awards Dinner in a sharp-looking black and grey tux.

The only problem was fellow defenceman Ryan Gillen did him one better, strutting onto the stage in a 1950s-style zoot suit, complete with a gangster-style hat and pocket chain.

"Yeah, I wasn't sure what was up with that," Alzner said. "I don't know why he's trying to step up.

"No, I'm happy he did that -- wearing the hat and adding a little fun to his get-up. It's nice to see guys having fun and relaxing."

Alzner himself had little time to relax at the event. He ran a mini-marathon between his chair and the stage, collecting a trio of awards.

The Washington Capitals prospect picked up the Petro-Canada player of the year and, for the second straight season, both the Husky Energy top defenceman trophy and the Molson coach's award.

"I'm so happy the coaches think so highly of me ... and that my teammates think the same way," Alzner said. "I'm happy to be playing with them, and a lot of my success goes to them."

The soon-to-be outgoing Hitmen captain, who also guided Team Canada to a world junior gold medal in January, is rarely at a loss for words.

But after hitting the stage for a third time, even Alzner started to reach for material.

"You run out of things to say," he said. "You want to thank everybody every time.

"It seems it all comes out the first time and then you add people."

Alzner, without question the top blueliner in the WHL, is looking forward to hosting some more hardware later this spring as the Hitmen chase the Memorial Cup.

"It's a lot bigger, and I'm sure it's going to be heavier," he said.

"Everything we've worked for so far is just leading towards that."

Last year's player of the year, gritty forward Ryan White, took home the fan favourite award and the Remax three-star selection trophy.

White thanked the training staff and also the Kamloops Blazers "for lending us (linemate) Brock Nixon for the rest of the year."

The club's three graduating players -- Nixon, Ryan Gillen and starting netminder Dan Mercer -- were also recognized for their success in the junior ranks.

Other award winners honoured at the annual ceremony included:

- Kyle Bortis: East Side Mario's most sportsmanlike player

- Dan Spence: Enmax humanitarian award

- Bostjan Golicic: Daimler Chrysler scholastic player

- T.J. Galiardi: Wendy's rookie of the year


The top-seeded Hitmen open the first round of the WHL playoffs at home Friday against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors (7 p.m. at the 'Dome, The Fan 960).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Season Defining Night At Verizon Center

You want to know how important tonight's games are in terms of impacting the Capitals season? Here you go:
  • The Capitals sit 7 points behind both the division leading Hurricanes and the 8th place Flyers (thanks to an amazing 3rd period comeback last night by the Maple Leafs)
  • If the Caps happen to beat the Flames tonight, not only will it be Kolzig's 300th win, but it would pull them within 5 points of both teams if the Blackhawks can beat the 'Canes at the United Center, and the Maple Leafs can beat the Flyers again (this time at the Wachovia Center)
  • That scenario would put the Caps in control of their own destiny in the Southeast Division because they have one game in hand on the 'Canes and play them twice down the stretch (6 points)
  • But as nice as that might be if it happens, things can also swing the other direction if the Caps lose tonight. Should the Islanders win and depending on the results of Maple Leafs game, the Caps could find themselves right back in the Stamkos sweepstakes with the fifth worst record in the NHL. (Remember the Blackhawks won the draft lottery last season with the fifth worst record)
So there you have it. Tonight the Caps could find themselves right back in the hunt for a playoff spot with a win and a little help, or right back in the draft lottery with a loss and a little luck. What do you think is more likely to happen?

The Road to 50!

Here's a look back at Alex Ovechkin's first 50 goals this season. Thanks to Comcast SportsNet for putting this together.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Looking Ahead

What a horrible weekend of hockey. That's really all that can be said about it. It's in the past, and nothing can be done to change it. So let's move forward and see what the Capitals must do over their remaining 12 games in order to make the post season. (AP Photo/Linda Spillers)

To catch Carolina:

Let's face it, Carolina is playing their best hockey of the season which will make it very hard for the Caps to catch them. The 'Canes have 11 games remaining, two of which are against Washington. For the Caps to win the division they
1.) Must beat the 'Canes both times = 4 points.
2.) Must get help from division foes to slow down the 'Canes. Besides their games versus the Caps, 6 of their final 9 games are against teams in the Southeast. The only playoff team they play down the stretch is Ottawa. Expect them to go at least 6-3-0 over these final games.
3.) That would leave the Caps with 15 points to make up over their final 10 games. Meaning the Caps would have to go 8-2-0 in order to pass Carolina and win the division.

To catch Philadelphia:

Just when the Flyers looked down and out they've won 5 of their last 7 games. They have 13 games remaining which means they have a game in hand over the Caps. Seven of those games are on the road. Eight of those games are against teams that are currently in the playoffs.
1.) If the Flyers go 7-6-0 over those final games the Caps would once again have to go 10-2-0 in order to tie them in the standings.

As you can see the Caps have their worked cut out for them. In working the numbers it seems that baring a complete meltdown of one the teams currently in the playoffs from the list of Philly, Boston, NY Rangers, Carolina. Washington can only loose two more times down the stretch if they hope to squeeze in.

In conclusion, it doesn't look good for the Caps this year.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NBC Promo

It feels like the playoffs are already here. What a weekend we have ahead of ourselves. We exorcised the demons in Buffalo, now we must do the same against the Penguins at home.

Hart Trophy for Ovechkin?

The question should be, how can Ovechkin not win the Hart Trophy? Tell me one player in the NHL that means more to his team than Alex? ........ that's right, I can't think of one either.

Here's An Answer To A Trivia Question

The question: What happens when you're awarded a penalty shot, but there's no goalie in the net? It's an automatic goal. This happened to Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night in their 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks. I guess there's a first time for everything.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Hottest Goalie in the NHL

I bet you'd have a tough time recognizing this guy. I'll tell you his name, and unless you're a die hard Panthers fan, you probably haven't even heard of him. It's Craig Anderson, Florida's backup to Tomas Vokoun, who was phenomenal in his shutout of the Bruins Tuesday night in Boston. Anderson had 40 saves in the Panthers 1-0 overtime win, his second consecutive shutout after blanking the New York Islanders thanks to 53 saves (an NHL record for a shutout) on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The good news for the Caps? We don't play the Panthers again until the 29th of March. Hopefully, Anderson will have come back to reality by then.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The One That Got Away?

No one can argue with GM George McPhee's success lately in drafting talented young players. The Capitals collective prospects right now are ranked 6th in the NHL by Hockey's Future. But last summer, sitting in the number 5 position, McPhee had a tough decision to make. Go with a potential franchise defenseman or a top line center to compliment Nicklas Backstrom. He chose to go with the defenseman (even though he began to announce the center as his selection) and so Karl Alzner was the pick. (Stanley Leary/Associated Press)

The man he bypassed was center Sam Gagner who was chosen one spot later by the Edmonton Oilers. While Alzner was sent back to the WHL this season for another year of seasoning with the Calgary Hitmen, Gagner stayed with the Oilers. The decision to keep him with the big club has payed off for GM Kevin Lowe. Gagner was named the NHL rookie of the month for February after leading all rookies in scoring, 3 goals and 10 assists in 12 games. He is also tied for 2nd in the NHL in shootout goals with 5 in 15 chances.

Capitals fans should expect to see Alzner in the lineup sooner rather than later. Once his junior season is over he should join the Hershey Bears for their Calder Cup run. But at least for the near future, the debate will rage on. Should McPhee have taken Gagner instead?

Ovechkin Explodes, Re-Captures Scoring Lead

Ovechkin's reaction says it all. He truly is one of a kind. It's nice to know that we have at least another 13 years of this excitement ahead.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Unleash the Fury!

I don't need to go into the specifics for you to know that tonight's game is the most important the Caps have played since their last playoff game back in 2003.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hooray for Huet

How's that for a debut? Eight-teen saves and a shutout over the Eastern Conference leading Devils. Not a bad way to start your Capitals career Cristobal. Here's to continued success in the future. I did find it interesting to hear that Coach Boudreau was still committed to starting Olie Saturday night. Coming into Friday's game, the talk was that if Huet blew the doors off, which he clearly did, he would get the nod against the Maple Leafs as well. But apparently that is not the case. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Fedorov also had an impressive debut. He helped to setup Mike Green's PP goal that gave the Caps the 1-0 lead and won 77% of his faceoffs on the night. That is the type of performance we need to see night in and night out from the Russian veteran. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

And don't forget, we still have Matt Cooke's debut to look forward to tomorrow night. The new Capital seemed to like his first impression of the team's system in Friday's practice. From Tarik:
"It's a pressure team here" in Washington, Cooke said. "Whereas Vancouver was more sit back and let them come to you. I think I'm fortunate because [the Capitals' system] kind of fits my style."

Things are certainly looking up. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Richard Lam)

Prospect Update: Mathieu Perreault had 3 assists last night and won 60% of his faceoffs in Acadie-Bathurst's 5-4 loss at Rouyn-Noranda.
Defensemen Karl Alzner and Keith Seabrook each had an assist in the Calgary Hitmen's 6-5 shootout win over Moose Jaw.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Official Retraction

Okay, I'd officially like to retract my previous post that declared the Capitals as players for the #1 overall pick and the rights to Steven Stamkos. With the moves made at the deadline, the team obviously has no aspirations of finishing in the top 5 for a spot in the draft lottery. No, the Caps have decided to add to their lineup and compete now for a playoff spot.

You have to give GM George McPhee a lot of credit with these deadline moves. The Caps gave up next to nothing to acquire a #1 goaltender in Cristobal Huet, a former #1 center in Sergei Fedorov, and an agitator in Matt Cooke. All of these assets were had for a grand total of Anaheim's 2009 2nd-round pick, which we received for Brian Sutherby, defensive prospect Theo Ruth, who is a freshman at Notre Dame and is still multiple years away from seeing an AHL rink let alone an NHL rink, and Matt Pettinger who I would say didn't even deserve to receive a jersey on a nightly basis anymore.

Huet, Fedorov, and Cooke will all be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. But that doesn't mean that they will all depart this summer. It's not as if teams will be lining up to sign a 38 year-old center, or a 29 year-old winger with a career average of about 20 pts/season. If either or both of those players fit well with this team, the Capitals will pay up and bring them back this fall. Huet on the other hand, will most likely be the best free agent goaltender available this summer. His performance down the stretch could earn him a big payday. McPhee will have to make the decision of whether or not he is worth the money it would cost to keep him here. To say the 3-way goaltending battle down the stretch will be interesting is an understatement. Hopefully the cream will rise to the top and one of the three will establish themselves as the #1 man.

As the New York Giants proved this season, once you get into the playoffs anything can happen. With the best player in the world on their side, can Ovechkin take his game to yet another level and lead the Caps on a Stanley Cup run this year? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Stamkos Countdown is Now On!!!

After the past weekend of disappointing outings, the time is now to start the official Stamkos countdown. The Caps are currently two points out of the 5th worst record in the league, a spot currently held by the Atlanta Thrashers. They are also still only four points out of the final playoff position currently held by Buffalo. If they finished with one of the 5 worst records, they would be in the draft lottery for a chance at the #1 overall pick and the right to select Steven Stamkos. Remember last season the team that finished in that position was none other than the Chicago Blackhawks, who ended up winning the lottery and budding star Patrick Kane. Just think at what our lineup would look like next season with Backstrom and Stamkos as our top two centers. The dream is still alive.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Caps Come Up Empty in "Biggest Game of the Year"

It started out good as the Capitals dominated the first half of the opening period and took a 1-0 lead on the road. However, a couple of things happened that just told you despite their early success the Caps were in for a long night. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

First of all, they had multiple chances to score but failed to do so. Viktor Kozlov hit the post on a sneaky wrist shot that should have made it 2-0, and Tomas Fleischmann whiffed on a wide open net from about 16 inches away that should of then made it 3-0. And what have we learned about today's NHL? If you don't capitalize on your chances, it's going to come back and bite you. Well that's exactly what happened.

The momentum changed when defenseman Mike Green was called for a post whistle roughing penalty. Now I have a big problem with this particular penalty. I believe it was Erik Cole who had charged Kolzig and and swatted multiple times after Olie had the puck secure. In the "old" NHL, Greenie would never have been penalized for standing up for his goalie. But it seems that in the "new" NHL, the players are not allowed to police themselves anymore. This was a horrible call that swung the momentum in favor of the Hurricanes and quickly tied the scored at one. Later in the night, Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was penalized in the exact same scenario in a game against the Flyers. That power play resulted in a Daniel Briere goal and a 1-0 lead that Philly ended up squandering with three seconds remaining. Referees seriously need to be more lenient in these situations and allow the players the ability to police themselves.

Now that I got that rant off my chest, the referees were not to blame for the Capitals ineptitude on the penalty kill. The combination of poor defensive coverage and the inability of Kolzig to secure a loose puck led directly to the 'Canes four power play goals. Before the game Kolzig had described the matchup as the "biggest game of the year". Well in such an important game, godzilla failed to deliver and continued his run of inconsistency this season. Without a doubt the weakest position on the team this season has been goaltending. And with Kolzig set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, you have to believe that we will have a new #1 next year for the first time in a decade.

After this outcome, Sunday's game versus the Devils now becomes the most important game of the year. If the result is similar, the Capitals should reevaluate their position going into Tuesday's trade deadline. With the playoffs becoming less likely, they should look at moving a John Erskine or Steve Eminger, who could provide defensive depth for a playoff team, and forwards Matt Bradley or Matt Pettinger, who once again could be depth players in the right scenario. Of course these moves would not provide much in return except for draft picks, but they would allow players such as Sami Lepisto, Chris Bourque, and Andrew Gordon an opportunity to get some ice time heading into next season.

Also, expect some of our better prospects to join the Hershey Bears for their playoff run. Defenseman Karl Alzner, Joe Finley, and Josh Godfrey along with forwards Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perreault, and Luke Lynes could all play key roles for the Bears this spring.

The future looks bright, but for now we have one more season of jumping on the Hershey bandwagon as they look for their third straight trip to the Calder Cup finals.