CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 43: Caps Try to Rebound Against Habs

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, January 10, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (27-12-3-57, first in Southeast, second in East), still stinging from last night's 3-0 shut out loss to Columbus, travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens (24-10-6-54, third in East) at 7:00 pm from Bell Centre.

The Caps had their seven-game winning streak broken last night by one of the hottest goalies in the league in 20-year old rookie Steve Mason. It was the second time Mason has shut the Caps out this season. Washington had won 12 of its last 13 games entering play last night, and Montreal has been just as hot, going 8-1-1 in its last 10 games.

Washington owns a pair of wins over Les Habitants this season already, including a 3-0 shut out by Jose Theodore, his only shut out of the season. This will be the third of four regular season matches between the two Eastern Conference foes.

Whether it was the shuffling of the lineup last night, bad luck, or poor matchups, the Caps just did not play very well last night against Columbus, and will want to put up a good showing in the Bell Centre tonight.

Last night was the first game in what promises to be a challenging period for coach Bruce Boudreau. He finally has most of his important players back healthy, and he is now faced with finding ice time for all his players. Two veterans in particular play critical pieces in this puzzle.

Future Hall of Famer Sergei Federov entered the lineup last night after missing several more weeks with a bum ankle. This created a log jam at center, where Boudreau decided that Michael Nylander would be the odd man out against Columbus.

But Fedorov did not make the road trip, and neither did Boyd Gordon, who tweaked his back during last night's pre-game skate. So Nylander and Eric Fehr, the other healthy scratch, are back in.

Boudreau also named Brent Johnson the starter in goal for tonight's game.

WAS: PP-6th (22.4%, 39/174); PK-24th (79.9%, 39/194)
MON: PP-25th (14.7%, 28/191); PK-11th (82.9%, 32/187)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-Out); D Jeff Schultz (Undisclosed-OUT); RW Boyd Gordon (Back-OUT)

MON: RW Mathieu Dandenault (Arm-IR); LW Christopher Higgins (Shoulder-IR); RW Georges Laraque (Groin-IR); C Saku Koivu (Foot/ankle-IR); G Carey Price (Lower body-Questionable); LW Alex Tanguay (Shoulder-Out)

Game 42 Review: Steve Mason. That's All.

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, January 09, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Steve Mason, the 20-year old rookie goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets, came into Friday night's game leading the entire NHL in shutouts, goals against average and save percentage. The only reason he was left off the Western Conference All-Star team had to be name recognition. If he keeps having games like he did last night against the Washington Capitals, name recognition will be the least of his worries.

Mason turned away all 45 shots he faced for his sixth shutout of the season, and the injury-depleted Blue Jackets beat the Capitals 3-0, before an announced, but not actual, sellout at Verizon Center.

If Tuesday's game with Philadelphia felt and sounded like a playoff game, then the feeling for this one was more of a pre-season game. The stands were barely three-quarters full, and what is usually a vocal Friday night crowd could only be described as subdued. The Caps did nothing to inspire the faithful.

Washington outshot and generally outplayed the Jackets, who were missing most of their top forwards due to injury, including leading scorers Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius. But coach Ken Hitchcock's trapping system kept the Caps from getting too many quality scoring chances, and when they did, Mason was in the way anyway.

Rookie defenseman Karl Alzner expressed the Caps frustration, "Their style of game is frustrating," Alzner said. "They're trapping and they're very tight defensively. If you don't get a goal quickly on them, they get a lot of confidence and get rolling."

Columbus got goals from R.J. Umberger, Fedor Tyutin and Jared Boll, with the second and third goals coming on the power play. Columbus had scored just four power play goals in their last 11 games.

The Jackets ended Washington's nine-game home winning streak.

"It had to happen one day," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You get snakebitten. But good teams rebound from it and, hopefully, we're a good team."

Washington travels to Montreal Saturday night for a battle for second place in the conference and the honor to send their coach to the All-Star game.

Photo by Getty Images.

WAS: None.
CBJ: Umgerger (12) from Voracek and Methot (1-9:27); Tyutin (4) from Malhotra and Boll (2-18:06-PP); Boll (1) from Tyutin and Malhotra (3-14:51)

1. S. Mason - CLB (Saves: 45, Save Pct: 1.000)
2. R. Umberger - CLB (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. J. Boll - CLB (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Winger Boyd Gordon suffered back spasms during pre-game warmups and did not play. The injury occurred after the lineups were submitted, so the Caps were forced to skate a player down all game. He is doubtful for tomorrow's game against Montreal.

Sergei Federov and Tomas Fleischmann both returned from lengthy absences, so Eric Fehr and Michael Nylander were the healthy scratches.

Jeff Schultz re-injured his finger and was scratched as well. Tyler Sloan was recalled from AHL Hershey to take his place.

Gordon Tweaks Back in Warmups, Questionable for Tomorrow

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, January 09, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Boyd Gordon missed tonight's game against Columbus after his back flared up on him during the pre-game skate. The team found out too late to substitute either of the two healthy scratches, Eric Fehr or Michael Nylander.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that he hadn't talked to the trainers yet, but based on Gordon's history and previous back troubles, he didn't expect Gordon to play tomorrow.
No word yet on how it would affect the lineup for tomorrow's road contest against Montreal.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 42: Columbus Comes Calling

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, January 09, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (27-11-3-57, first in Southeast, second in East), winners of their last seven games, host the Columbus Blue Jackets (18-18-4-40, third in Central) at 7:00 pm at the Verizon Center.

The Caps continue to be one of the hottest teams in the league. They are 14-2-0 since Dec. 4 and 18-1-1 at home this season. Washington looks to even the season series against Columbus, as they fell on the road to the Jackets 3-0 on Nov. 29.

In the previous loss, Rick Nash was the difference-maker for Columbus as he scored two of the three goals. Nash will miss tonight's game, however. Rookie goalie Steve Mason earned one of his five shut outs for the season that night, stopping all 26 shots he faced.

In fact, Mason has been the reason Columbus can still think about the playoffs. The 20-year old netminder is 7-5-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average the past month. Overall this season, his goals against is 1.82 and save percentage is .934, both tops in the NHL. Inexplicably, he was left off the Western Conference All-Star team.

Just as disappointing were the omissions of Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green from the Eastern Conference reserves. It is unfortunate the league could not find room for the seventh leading scorer in the East overall (Backstrom) and the number three scoring defenseman (Green), but that is what happens when the league allows unlimited computer voting and the "fans" vote two undeserving players to the starting lineups (Montreal's Alex Kovalev and Mike Komisarek).

Coach Bruce Boudreau's team must focus their efforts on a stingy Columbus team after their tense victory over Philadelphia Tuesday night, a 2-1 shootout win. His team is getting healthy at the right time though, with games against Montreal, Pittsburgh and Boston in the coming week.

Center Sergei Federov and winger Tomas Fleischmann both appear ready to make their returns to the ice, opening up all sorts of questions about line assignments, healthy scratches and cap issues. For Boudreau, having these types of questions is a luxury compared to earlier in the season when they had trouble finding enough healthy bodies to suit up (see: video producer Brett Leonhardt in goal).

Defenseman Tyler Sloan was recalled this morning from AHL Hershey, apparently due to an undisclosed injury to defenseman Jeff Schultz.

WAS: PP-5th (23.2%, 39/168); PK-20th (80.3%, 37/188)
CLB: PP-30th (10.2%, 18/177); PK-18th (80.7%, 35/181)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-Questionable); Tomas Fleischmann (Pneumonia-Questionable); D Jeff Schultz (Undisclosed-Questionable)

CLB: C Derick Brassard (Shoulder-Out); LW Raffi Torres (Knee-IR); LW Jason Chimera (Groin-IR); LW Kristian Huselius (Upper body-Questionable); D Rostislav Klesla (Lower body-IR); G Pascal Leclaire (Lower body-IR); LW Rick Nash (Leg-Doubtful); C Jiri Novotny (Upper body-IR)

Green, Backstrom Left Off Eastern Conference All-Star Team

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, January 08, 2009 | | 0 comments »

The NHL released the reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Stars at noon, and while congratulations are in order to Alex Ovechkin, rightly named to the team after the starter voting snafu, center Niklas Backstrom (seventh in the conference in scoring) and defenseman Mike Green (third in conference in scoring for defensemen, despite missing a dozen games) were left off the squad.

Here's the list of reserves announced today:

Forwards: Jeff Carter (C-PHI), Marc Savard (C-BOS), Vincent Lecavalier (C-TB), Eric Staal (C-CAR), Alex Ovechkin (LW-WAS), Dany Heatley (LW-OTT), Ilya Kovalchuk (LW-ATL), Zach Parise (LW-NJ), Thomas Vanek (LW-BUF)

Defense: Jay Bouwmeester (D-FLA), Zdeno Chara (D-BOS), Tomas Kaberle (D-TOR), Mark Streit (D-NYI)

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Tim Thomas (BOS)

I'm a big proponent of having each team represented in the All-Star game, so I'm not going to cry foul too hard when evaluating these reserve selections. Phil Kessel (24-16-40, +16), Patrick Elias (18-28-46, +15) and Mike Richards (15-27-42, +16) have just as much beef as Backstrom does about being left off in favor of Staal (18-13-31, +11), Lecavalier (16-18-34, +4) or Heatley (16-20-36, -2).

I guess it just goes back to the Montreal players voted in who simply don't belong.

Game 41 Review: Theo Does It Again

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, January 07, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Jose Theodore made 33 saves, including all three shots in a shootout, and the Washington Capitals (27-11-3, first in Southeast) defeated the Philadelphia Flyers (21-10-9, second in Atlantic), 2-1 before a playoff-intense capacity crowd at the Verizon Center.

Viktor Kozlov beat Flyers goalie Martin Biron (33 saves) on the first shot in the shootout, and the rest was all Theodore. The resurgent netminder stoned Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on successive shots to cement the victory and exact a measure of revenge for the 7-1 shellacking back in December.

The Capitals have not lost since that game, a streak of seven straight. Theodore has been the goalie for six of those games.

All three shooters tried to beat Theodore on low shots to his stick side, but twice he closed the door with his left foot on the post, and on the final shot by Carter--tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 27--got enough of Carter's five-hole attempt to thwart the talented forward and preserve the win.

The Caps regulation goal came early off the stick of Niklas Backstrom, campaigning for his first all-star birth. His 12th of the season came from a pass from behind the net from Alexander Semin. That marker would stand until the first minute of the third period.

With Michael Nylander off with a weak hooking call, Braydon Coburn's shot from the post was deflected by not one, but two Capitals defenders and snuck behind Theodore.

Washington killed off a 3:30 penalty kill, including 30 seconds of five-on-three, during a back-and-forth second period. Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaananen made a spectacular sliding block, robbing Nylander of his second goal of the season.

The Capitals are now 18-1-1 at home this season, and have two days to rest with Columbus visiting on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

Photo by Getty Images.
WAS: Backstrom (12) from Semin and Kozlov (1-2:10-PP)
PHI: Coburn (5) from Timonen and Carter (3-0:23-PP)
1. J. Theodore - WAS (Saves: 33, Save Pct: .971)
2. V. Kozlov - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. M. Biron - PHI (Saves: 33, Save Pct: .971)
The game was delayed several minutes before the shootout as the Flyers bench complained about the snow in the Flyers end and made the Zambonis come back out and resurface the ice.

The Caps maintain their 10-point lead over Carolina in the Southeast Division, and with Boston's loss are just five points behind the Eastern Conference's leaders.

CAPS GAME NIGHT: Looking For Revenge Against Philly

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, January 06, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (26-11-3, first in Southeast) host the Philadelphia Flyers (21-10-8, second in Atlantic) in a very important Eastern Conference showdown tonight at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

As fabled television broadcaster Keith Jackson would say, "These two teams just plain don't like each other." Well, the rivalry on the ice may not be quite as dramatic as the rivalry between the two groups of fans, but it's getting there.

Consider the respective places in the Eastern Conference standings: the Caps sit in second at 55 points, trailing only Boston with 62; the Flyers are tied with Montreal for fourth with 50. So proximity breeds contempt.

Add in the Flyers seven-game victory over the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, with Jeff Carter skating around the Verizon Center ice after the handshakes "saluting" the DC fans, and the 7-1 pasting by the Flyers in Philly on Dec. 20 (the Caps last loss), and you've got the makings of an old-fashioned donnybrook.

Washington is the owner of the East's best home record at 17-1-1, and the Flyers would like nothing more than to blemish those pretty numbers.

The game also features the two players tied for the league lead in goals: the aforementioned Carter for Philly and Alex Ovechkin, the reigning MVP, coming off being snubbed for a starting spot in the NHL All-Star game.

Ovie has 13 goals and five assists in his last 12 games.

Jose Theodore, on a personal five-game winning streak, will start tonight's game for the Caps in goal.

Philadelphia is completing a six-game road trip and is 2-2-1 on the trip. They split shootout losses over the weekend, beating Anaheim Friday but losing to Los Angeles Saturday.

For once, the Caps meet a team that has as many injuries as they have had this season. The Flyers will be without starting goalie Antero Niittymaki, who was a stone wall the last time the two team played, stopping all but one of the 48 shots against. Marin Biron (7-2-2, 3.21 in his last 11 starts) will be between the pipes.

Also missing tonight will be Joffery Lupul, Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux. Arron Ashram is questionable.

WAS: PP-5th (23.2%, 38/164); PK-21st (80.4%, 36/184)
PHI: PP-2nd (25.8%, 39/151)' PK-13th (82.3%, 35/198)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-IR); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); Tomas Fleischmann (Pneumonia-OUT)

PHI: G Antero Niittymaki (Groin-IR); D Derian Hatcher (Knee-IR); RW Arron Asham (Knee-Questionable); C Daniel Briere (Groin-IR); LW Simon Gagne (Shoulder-Questionable); RW Claude Giroux (Concussion-Out); LW Josh Gratton (Abdominal-Questionable); LW Jonathon Kalinski (Leg-Questionable); RW Joffrey Lupul (Abdominal-IR; LW Darroll Powe (Hip-Questionable)


Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Monday, January 05, 2009 | , , | 2 comments »


Unfortunately, Ovi did not get the fan votes to back that up! I am sure that he will be added to the reserve list, however, that has not been published yet.

The entire starting lineup for the East is Penguins and Canadiens and the West is Ducks and Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby received the most votes with a record number 1,713,021 votes.

Game 40 Review: Better Late Than Never

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, January 05, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (26-11-3, first in Southeast) extended their winning streak to six games, and 13 out of 15, as they defeated the New York Rangers (23-14-3, third in Atlantic) 2-1 Saturday night at the Verizon Center before another red-clad capacity crowd.

Alex Ovechkin continues to be the most dynamic, if under-appreciated, superstar in the league, as he netted his 27th goal of the season to unlock a one-goal tie with just 32 seconds remaining in the second period.

The tie-breaker was a short-handed goal.

Ovie found out before the game that he was not selected as a starter for the Eastern Conference in next month's all-star game, a fact coach Bruce Boudreau called "dumb."

Ovechkin took a short pass from center Dave Steckel and beat two Rangers defenders to the blue line, then threw a wrist shot toward New York goalie Steve Valiquette, making only his ninth appearance of the season.

"It was the end of the shift. I wanted to just shoot the puck and go to change, but it was kind of a lucky goal," said Ovechkin.

The Rangers have allowed a league-worst 12 short-handed goals this season.

Defenseman Mike Green scored on a power play goal earlier in the second for Washington's other goal. Petr Prucha scored on a tip-in for New York.

The game featured some of the rough stuff as well, as Chris Clark squared off with Wade Redden, Michael Nylander earned a roughing taking exception to a high-stick by Scott Gomez, and even Alexander Semin mixed it up, albeit not his strong suit, with Marc Staal. Semin was returning after missing six games with a back injury.

Washington hosts the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center. The Caps are 17-1-1 at home this season.

Photo by Getty Images.

WAS: Green (10) from Semin and Kozlov (2-11:23-PP); Ovechkin (27) from Steckel (2-19:28-SH

NYR: Prucha (3) from Dubinsky and Zherdev (2-10:04)

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. D. Steckel - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. M. Staal - NYR (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)

Goalie Jose Theodore made 21 saves earning the victory. He has a personal five game winning streak.

The game was DC's fifth consecutive sellout and ninth this season.

Washington out shot New York 31-22.