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.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Caps Hold Off Lightning 3-2

Well they almost blew it, thanks to a pair of Lightning goals within about 30 seconds late in the 3rd period to tie the game at 2. But Alex saved the day in the end, Alex Semin that is, with his quick reflexes that deposited a loose puck past Johan Holmqvist with three minutes to go. Now the Caps players and their dads will be able to enjoy a Sunday outing in the sunshine state. A couple key contributors for the Caps silenced their critics tonight: (Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  1. Olaf Kolzig - 39 saves on the night, Godzilla was spectacular in net. Neither goal in the 3rd period was his fault. The Caps will need more consistent performances like this one from their number one netminder if they hope to make a playoff run this spring.
  2. Tomas Fleischmann - His promotion to the first line resulted in his second goal in as many nights. He is proving why the organization is so high on him. Fleischmann must continue to be a reliable secondary scoring option for this team to succeed.
And how about the debut of defenseman Sami Lepisto? He showed flashes of brilliance in his 14+ minutes of ice time, contributing on the second power play unit while also delivering some big hits, which is a bit unexpected considering his size. He has definitely proved that he deserves a good look with the big club. Hopefully he is here to stay. (Photo of Sami Lepisto during Rookie Camp, Summer '07)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bears Fall in Rochester

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Hershey got two goals from Joe Motzko, extending his team lead to 21 on the season. But it was not enough as the North Division cellar dwellers, the Rochester Americans, upset the Bears 4-2 in front of 7,424 at the Blue Cross Arena. Check out the highlights with the video courtesy of B2Networks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hershey Bears On The Air Tonight!

Just a reminder for everyone out their with Directv that the Hershey Bears will be on tv tonight as they start their road trip against the Lake Erie Monsters. The game will be broadcast on FSN Ohio (637) and FSN Cincinnati (638). Or if you don't have Directv then the NHL network will be broadcasting a replay of the Bears game last Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre against the Penguins. Don't miss out on this opportunity to see some of our future Capitals in action!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hershey Bears Highlights

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The Hershey Bears defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-3 on the road Saturday night. Chris Bourque led the way for the Bears with two goals on the night, giving him 17 on the season. Andrew Gordon also tallied his 11th goal on the season and Daren Machesney had 22 saves for his 15th win. Check out the highlights from the 1st period, video courtesy of B2Networks.
(If you are having trouble playing videos on this site with firefox, try using windows explorer)

Where Are They Now: Jared Aulin

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It seems a lot of former Capitals are in the news this weekend. Here's a story about Jared Aulin, a former top prospect with Washington and the Los Angeles Kings. Video is courtesy of CBC Sports.

Joe Juneau Part 2

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Part 2 of Joe Juneau's story, courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet.

Joe Juneau Part 1

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Joe Juneau is making a difference in the lives of children in Nunavik. He is part 1 of his story courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Former Capital Joe Juneau is Trying to Make a Difference

This is an amazing story that will be shown on Rogers Sportsnet's news show "Connected". Hopefully, we can get this on CSN as well in the near future. In the meantime check out the article.
Here is an excerp. (Photo courtesy of TSN.ca)


In the northern reaches of Quebec, far from the spotlight of the National
Hockey League he knew for 13 seasons, Joe Juneau is making what he might call
the most important assist of his career.The 40-year-old has established a school
that combines hockey with academics for the children of Nunavik, a collection of
14 villages and 10,000 residents that dot the coast of the Ungava
Peninsula.
Juneau, who finished his career with the Montreal Canadiens in 2004, moved
to the village of Kuujjuaq, nearly 1,500 kilometres north of Montreal, with his
family last year after first visiting the region three years ago. He was moved
by the challenge the residents, and in particular the children, face in the
remote region.

Monday, February 4, 2008

CSN Picks up Caps 2/10 Game

After being dropped from NBC's coverage, Comcast SportsNet has picked up the Capitals Sunday, February 10th game versus the Rangers. It will be on the main channel and broadcasted in HD. Stay tuned, official announcement to come.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Caps in the Q Update

Francois Bouchard, the Capitals 2nd-round pick in 2006, had two goals and an assist in Baie-Comeau's 6-3 win over Val-d'Or yesterday. He is now second in the QMJHL in scoring with 29 goals, 47 assists for 76 points just one point behind the league leader. He is also a +11 on the season.

Mathieu Perreault, the Capitals 6th-round choice in 2006, also had a goal and an assist in Acadie-Bathurst's 4-2 win over Cape Breton yesterday. This performance continued his league high streak of 22 consecutive games with a point. He also won 17 out of 28 faceoffs in the game, and finds himself in a three-way tie for sixth place in the QMJHL in scoring with 25 goals, 47 assists for 72 points. Perreault is also a +22 on the season.

Shame on You MASN! Shame on you MLB!

Look, in today's era of technology, you can not call yourself a "sports network" without providing at least some of your games in high-definition. Last year MASN with it's monopoly coverage of both baseball teams in the mid-atlantic region, declared that some of their games would be broadcasted in HD in 2008. As this article points out, we are only two months away from opening day and no plans for the upgrade have been announced.

Nationals fans have Bud Selig to thank for this. Back when the DC area was granted a baseball team, their television rights were given to the Orioles as a consolation for allowing the Expos to move there. Does this make any sense at all? When will major league baseball get with the times. Did the Redskins or Capitals receive anything when the state of Carolina was granted NFL and NHL teams? Both of those teams had claimed their territory through the Tar Heal state since their inceptions. Unbelievable.

Get with the times MASN. High-Definition is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.

And get with the times MLB. Franchise territories change over time. What a concept huh?

Article courtesy of TVPredictions.com.

MASN: Still Working On HDTV In 2008
The network is the last holdout in offering high-def broadcasts of Major League Baseball.
By Swanni
Washington, D.C. (February 1, 2008) -- MASN, which has the broadcast rights to the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, says it's still working to air "some" games in High-Definition during the 2008 season.

MASN's lack of HD coverage to date has become both a local and national issue for baseball fans. As of now, the Orioles and Nats are the only two Major League Baseball teams that will not be broadcast locally in High-Definition during the 2008 season.

Many Nats and O's fans have expressed their displeasure on baseball message boards -- and in e-mails sent to TVPredictions.com.

But Todd Webster, a MASN spokesman, told TVPredictions.com today that the regional sports network is still talking to cable and satellite operators about providing high-def coverage this season.

"We're still planning for some (Nats and O's) games (in HD) this season," he said. "We're working with the affiliates (cable and satellite operators) to expand their capability for (MASN in HD.)



But Webster acknowledged that "not much has changed in the last six months" in those discussions. "But we are still trying to work it out."

The regional sports network told the Baltimore Sun last year that it might offer high-def coverage of the Nats and Orioles this year. But today, less than two months before the 2008 season begins, the network has still not announced its high-def plans.

Every other MLB team has already announced that its regional sports network will provide some games in high-def this year, including the Kansas City Royals, which were not broadcast locally in high-def last year.

Webster said it's still possible that MASN could make a HD announcement by Opening Day.

In the past, MASN has said it has not offered the two teams in high-def because it did not have a dedicated HD channel.

However, the sports network could broadcast some games in high-def and offer them to cable and satellite providers who in turn could show them on their HD channels. It could also launch a high-def simulcast channel and ask the cable and satellite operators to carry it.

In addition, MASN could offer some HD games to Washington area station WDCA (channel 20), which can transmit in high-def. The sports network has shown standard-definition Nationals games on WDCA during the past three seasons.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Best Players in Stingrays History by Andrew Miller

Since coverage is so sparse, anytime I find information about our minor league teams I like to share it with you. Check out this article from Andrew Miller of The Post and Courier.


10 Years Of Exemplary Stingrays February 2, 2008


By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - The ECHL is celebrating its 20th anniversary and the South Carolina Stingrays are commemorating their 15th season in the league.

It's also an anniversary of sorts for yours truly. This is my 10th season covering the team. My first campaign with the Stingrays came during the 1998-99 season when they went 40-20-10, finishing third in the Southeast Division and were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by Mississippi, which eventually went on to capture the Kelly Cup.

Over the last 10 seasons, the Stingrays made the playoffs eight straight seasons, won the 2001 Kelly Cup, while going through more than 300 players, 20 goaltenders, four team presidents and three head coaches.

From time to time, Stingrays fans will stop me on the concourse at the North Charleston Coliseum and ask me about my favorite all-time players. In honor of that, I'm going to pick my all-decade team (OK, so technically it's only been nine years, but who's counting).

You'll notice that some very prominent players were left off the team. Former Stingrays greats like Mike Ross or Jason Cipolla are not on this team because I never saw them play. Same is true for Jason Fitzsimmons, who was with the team as a head coach and assistant coach for nine seasons while I was on the beat, but never saw him between the pipes.

I also tried to pick only guys who had been on the team for at least one full season. So players like Jonas Johansson, Kyle Wilson and Marc Busenburg, who played for the Stingrays in only a handful of games, aren't included. Same is true for current Stingrays such as Travis Morin and Patrick McNeill, who certainly could have been considered for the team.

One other thing I tried to do was pick a team in every sense of the word. I didn't want an all-star team with guys who were just offensive in nature. Sure, there's plenty of firepower in the lineup, but this is a team that could play just about any style of hockey and still win.

Centers

Brett Marietti (1994-2003)
Mr. Stingray. Perhaps the best captain in ECHL history and winner of two Kelly Cup titles. A great two-way player, who could play in every situation. There's a reason his No. 24 jersey is up in the rafters of the North Charleston Coliseum.

Dave Seitz (1996-2004)
The franchise's all-time leading scorer and the best passer to ever put on a Stingrays jersey. Was the playoff MVP when the Stingrays won their second Kelly Cup title in 2001. His No. 14 jersey is up there next to Marietti's.

Greg Schmidt (1998-2001)
Maybe the most underrated and under-appreciated player in Stingrays history. Scored 68 goals in three seasons, mostly from the third line. Could kill penalties and was a top middleweight fighter when asked to drop the gloves.

Rich Peverley (2005)
Probably the most gifted overall offensive player in Stingrays history. A superb stick handler and skater and without the NHL lockout in 2004 would never have played in the ECHL. Has played in 25 games with Nashville Predators over the last two seasons.

Joey Tenute (2005)
Like Peverley, Tenute should never have been in the ECHL. Was the 2005 ECHL Rookie of the Year, leading the team with 75 points, including 34 goals. Tenute has one game in the NHL in 2006 with the Washington Capitals.

Wingers

Rob Concannon (1995-2000, 2003)
Every team needs an agitator. No one could get under the skin of opposing players, coaches and fans better than "Coo Coo". A fan favorite, Concannon had four straight 20-goal seasons and could kill penalties. Inducted into Stingrays Hall of Fame.

Ed Courtenay (1997, 2003-05)
Courtenay had a real nose for the net. Led the ECHL in scoring during the 1997 season with 110 points and led the team in scoring at age 35 during the 2004 season with 66 points. Inducted into Stingrays Hall of Fame.

Matt Reid (2004-present)
Stingrays fans hated Reid when he played in Pee Dee, but love him now. Few players have more of an impact on their teams than Reid. Plays every shift like it's his last.

Cail MacLean (2005-present)
A professional in every sense of the word. Can play in every situation and leads by example, still blocking shots at age 30. MacLean would be my captain on any other team without Marietti.

Adam Calder (1999-2003)
The Stingrays' top scorer on their 2001 Kelly Cup team. A favorite among his teammates, but was the only player who was truly happy when he was miserable.

Jason Sessa (1999-2002)
Sessa led the Stingrays in goals with 34 on the 2001 Kelly Cup team. Was perhaps the best pure goal-scorer in Stingrays history. Sessa and Seitz were a lethal combination on the ice.

Marty Clapton (2000-06)
Clapton won Kelly Cup titles with both Hampton Roads (1998) and the Stingrays (2001). Clapton could also play on defense, which is why he's got a spot on this team.

Marc Tardif (1995-200)
Every team needs a tough guy and few came tougher than Tardif. Tardif wasn't just a goon. He could play a regular shift and he loved to throw his body around on the ice. Tardif was also capable of chipping in offensively.

Defense

Jared Bednar (1995-97, 1999-2002)
The toughest player ever to put on a Stingrays uniform. A solid defensive player that other teams hated to play against.

Paul Traynor (1998, 2002)
Only played in 72 games and didn't record a single goal in two seasons with the Stingrays. But was the best stay-at-home defenseman in last 10 seasons for the Stingrays. Other teams just didn't score when Traynor was on the ice.

Trevor Johnson (2000-06)
A former Stingrays captain who loved to play the body. Bad shoulders limited what he could do on the ice at times, but a tough, gritty defenseman.

Chris Hynnes (1996-99)
Hynnes had an absolute cannon from the point on the power play. Had 60 goals in three seasons for the Stingrays. Enough said.

Brad Dexter (1996-2001)
The best offensive-defenseman in Stingrays history. A superior stick handler and fantastic skater. He loved to join the rush, which would get him in trouble at least once a game. Dexter was an underrated defensive player. Should be in the Stingrays Hall of Fame.

Mark Ardelan (2005)
Another player who wouldn't have been with the Stingrays without the NHL lockout. An offensive force on the blue line in a similar mold to Dexter.

Nate Kiser (2004-present)
Kiser is the most improved player in Stingrays history. Came to the Stingrays predominantly as a tough guy, but has become a solid two-way defenseman over the last three seasons.

Goalies

Kirk Daubenspeck (1999-2001, 2002-06)
Daubenspeck was the best "big-game" goalie in Stingrays history. Just ask Cail MacLean, who played against the Stingrays during their 2001 Kelly Cup title run. Dauber doesn't have eye-popping statistics, but knows how to win, which is all that matters.

Davis Parley (2005-present)
Every team that wins a championship needs two quality goalies. If Parley hangs around long enough, he'll break all of Daubenspeck's records.

Copyright © 1997 - 2007 the Evening Post Publishing Co.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Simply Sensational"

Look I could spend this time writing about what a great game Alex Ovechkin had last night and how lucky we are here in Washington to have such a special player. But instead what I'd like to do is acknowledge Joe Benenati and Craig Laughlin who night in and night out take the game experience to another level.

While it can't be hard showing enthusiasm calling an Ovechkin goal, Benenati still paints the picture like no other. Last night was a perfect example, each one of his calls for Ovechkin's goals grew in emotion resulting in a crescendo to his game winner.

"Ovechkin in front, a chance... SCORE!!!!!! Ovechkin's 4th is the game-winning 5th." It sounded simple enough, but it perfectly described the emotion of the moment, and as a result made me want to jump in the celebration huddle as well.

The play-by-play position is key to the overall game experience. Remember back in the day when we used to have Jeff Rimer? We are lucky to have the NHL's best in Joe Benanati, and a great color commentator in Craig Laughlin. Hopefully like Ovechkin these two will be with the organization for at least the next 13 years.