Backstrom Passes on Youngstars Game

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | | 2 comments »

The Washington Capitals announced that center Niklas Backstrom, selected for the NHL's Youngstars game featuring the league's top rookies and second year players, will respectfully decline the invitation.

From the press release:

"I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the YoungStars Game last year. This year I felt like it made more sense for me to give someone else that opportunity and use this time to rest and prepare for the second half of the season with the Washington Capitals. I can assure Caps fans that I’m not injured and will be ready to go Tuesday in Boston."

Backstrom was not selected for the regular All-Star game, despite being the 14th overall leading scorer in the league, ninth in the conference, and fourth in the conference in assists.

Game 48 Review: Bad Penalties Kill Caps, Lose to Sens 3-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

When Alexander Semin took a blatant and needless tripping penalty with 3:17 remaining in the third period, the omen was as obvious as the foul. And when Brendan Bell collected his own blocked shot and sent the puck past goalie Jose Theodore, the result was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Ottawa Senators, 13th in the conference, scored three power play goals and defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2.

For the second time in as many nights, the Capitals (30-15-3-63) played without energy or urgency against one of the bottom-feeding teams in the Eastern Conference. Unlike yesterday's victory over the New York Islanders, however, the bad penalties finally caught up with the Caps, costing them two points in their quest to catch Boston for first place in the East.

Semin's penalty was not the only costly infraction. The Sens' first goal came with defenseman Mike Green off for roughing, as he punched Ottawa agitator Jarko Ruutu in the face in front of the head referee. Ruutu embellished the face-wash a bit and was smiling on the bench after the call, but Green's poor judgment was worse than any amount of acting Ruutu may be accused of.

The second goal came with Sergei Federov off for hooking. Dany Heatley scored both of Ottawa's first two goals.

Ottawa out shot Washington 18-5 in the final frame, and 34-31 for the game.

The Capitals charged back in the second period, getting goals from Federov, a big slap shot from the high slot, and David Steckel, who tipped in a loose puck in the crease against Senators' goalie Brian Elliot, making his sixth career start.

Washington thus ends its modest three-game winning streak and enters the all-star break with 63 points. The Caps hold a 12-point lead in the Southeast Division over Carolina, and trail the Boston Bruins by eight points for first seed in the Eastern Conference.

Washington is off until Tuesday, Jan. 27, when they travel to Boston to face the first-place Bruins.
08:11 Power Play - Dany Heatley (20), Slap Shot. Assist: Kuba, Vermette
15:54 Power Play - Dany Heatley (21), Tip-In. Assist: Vermette, Foligno

37.0 Sergei Fedorov (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Semin
09:58 Dave Steckel (6), Backhand Shot. Assist: Fleischmann, Clark

18:38 Power Play - Brendan Bell (4), Wrist Shot. Assist: Vermette
1. D. Heatley - OTT (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. A. Vermette - OTT (Goals: 0, Assists: 3)
3. S. Fedorov - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
Veteran center Michael Nylander and winger Eric Fehr were healthy scratches...Theodore made 31 saves in his fifth straight start.

The Washington Capitals (30-14-3-63, first in Southeast, second in East) face the Ottawa Senators (15-21-7-37, fifth in Northeast, 13th in East) at 7:30 pm from Scotiabank Place.

The Caps have had a history this season of playing up--and down--to their competition, and yesterday afternoon against the league-worst New York Islanders was no exception. In a game defined by bouncing pucks and lacking energy, Alex Ovechkin hoisted his team on his back and scored twice, including the game winner 1:46 into overtime.

Ovechkin made up for a previous mistake, taking a delay of game penalty late in regulation, allowing the Islanders Kyle Okposo to tie the game on a five-on-three advantage.

The goals were Ovechkin's 30th and 31st of the season, and momentarily pushes him into the NHL goal scoring lead, one goal ahead of Philadelphia's Jeff Carter.

Washington has now won three games in a row and 16 of its last 21 games.

Ottawa has struggled this season, as their divisional last place status would attest to. Despite the struggles, however, this team remains dangerous and capable. Ottawa enters play tonight with a 2-0-1 record in its last three games, having scored 12 goals in that span.

The Senators are led by all-star Dany Heatley (19-22-41, minus-3) and former all-stars Daniel Alfredsson (12-28-40, plus-2) and Jason Spezza (18-19-37, minus-5). Filip Kuba is Ottawa's blue line leader, with one goal and 23 assists, and he is their plus-minus leader at plus-11.

Alex Auld is getting the lion's share of work in goal for the Senators. For the season, he is 9-11-8 with a 2.64 goals against average, and .907 save percentage in 25 games. The backup is Brian Elliot (2-1-2, 2.22, .921 in four games).

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau plans to start Jose Theodore (17-8-2, 2.80, .897) tonight, wiht recent recall Daren Machesney serving as the backup. Theodore notched his 200th career victory in the win over New York yesterday.

Michael Nylander and Eric Fehr will be healthy scratches tonight, with David Steckel returning to the lineup.

WAS: PP-5th (23.2%, 46/198); PK-22nd (79.6%, 45/221)
OTT: PP-15th (17.9%, 32/179); PK-14th (81.9%, 33/182)

WAS: D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); RW Boyd Gordon (Back-probable); Shaone Morrison (Lower body- Day to Day)

OTT: C Cody Bass (Shoulder-IR); RW Shean Donovan (Lower-body-Out); RW Chris Neil (Flu-Questionable); D Anton Volchenkov (Shoulder-Questionable)

Alex Ovechkin made up for a rare mistake and scored a power play goal 1:46 into overtime, allowing the Washington Capitals to escape with a 2-1 win over the NHL's worst team, the New York Islanders.

It was Washington's third straight win, and New York's eighth straight loss.

Ovechkin scored both of his team's goals, both on the power play. Despite out shooting the Islanders 38-28, Washington (30-14-3-63) played a lackluster, sloppy game and should consider themselves lucky that their talent eventually carried the day. Turnovers, penalties, and poor shots were more the rule than good play during this matinee affair.

The victory moves the Caps two points closer to the top of the NHL's Eastern Conference, as the Boston Bruins dropped a 5-4 OT decision to the St. Louis Blues. With one game to play before the all-star break, the Caps find themselves just eight points behind Boston in the East.

This is the fastest the Washington franchise has reached 30 wins for the season since the 1994-95 team.

The game winner came with former Cap Brendan Witt in the box for slashing Ovechkin. Veteran center Sergei Federov brought the puck in the offensive zone and pulled up at the circle. As he slid to a stop, he lost his edge, but not before getting just enough on a drop pass to streaking winger Alexander Semin.

Semin brought the puck in deep and slid it through the crease to Ovechkin, who lifted the puck top shelf to beat Islanders rookie goalie Yann Danis, who played a terrific game in his own right. The OT winner was Ovechkin's 31st goal of the year, momentarily taking the NHL goal scoring lead over Philadelphia's Jeff Carter.

The Islanders tied the game courtesy to a two-man advantage late in the third period. With just five seconds removed from a Niklas Backstrom tripping penalty, Alex Ovechkin attempted a clear, but the puck held his stick just a little too long and he lofted the rubber off the playing surface, drawing a two-minute delay of game penalty.

The Caps were able to kill about a minute of the five-on-three, but Franz Nielsen found Kyle Okposo on a cross-crease pass and Okposo buried it behind Jose Theodore for his sixth goal of the season. The shot would be the only Islander attempt to beat Theodore, who owns the best record against the Islanders of any active goaltender.

Washington finishes the "first half" of the season with a game tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators at 7:00 pm from Scotiabank Place.

06:35 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (30), Slap Shot. Assist: Green, Laich


12:18 Power Play - Kyle Okposo (6), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nielsen, Streit

01:46 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (31), Wrist Shot. Assist: Semin, Fedorov

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. K. Okposo - NYI (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. J. Theodore - WAS (Saves: 27, Save Pct: .964)

Daren Machesney was recalled from AHL Hershey before the game to back up Theodore. Brent Johnson is being given a couple games around the all-star game to rest several nagging injuries.

Eric Fehr and David Steckel were healthy scratches.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 47: Trying to Stay On Point On Long Island

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, January 19, 2009 | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (29-14-3-61, first in Southeast, second in East) travel to New York to face the Islanders (12-29-4-28, fifth in Atlantic) in a matinee, a 2:00 pm start time at Nassau Coliseum.

The Caps look to start another winning streak, coming off back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Boston, while the Islanders try to break a seven-game losing streak.

Since the Caps beat the Islanders on Dec. 16, New York has won just twice (2-17-2). They own the worst record in the league at this point in the season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau's team has had something of a history playing up--and down--to their competition this season, as home losses to Edmonton and Columbus last week illustrate. But the team played a complete 60-minute game in a tight, defensive game beating Boston Saturday night 2-1.

The Islanders' struggles are obvious, and many. They are the third lowest scoring team in the East, registering just 112 goals in 45 games, a 2.48 goals per game average. The Caps, meanwhile, average 3.24 goals per game and are fifth overall in the league in goals scored.

Goaltending has been a major problem for the Islanders as well. Started Rick DiPietro has been out most of the season, and fill-in Joey MacDonald has been inconsistent, and now he's out with a groin injury too. The Caps will probably face Yann Danis (0-5-0, 3.82, .873 in six games) in this afternoon's tilt.

Leading scorers for the Islanders are all-star defenseman Mark Streit (8-25-33, minus-3), and forwards Bill Guerin (14-18-32, minus-8) and Doug Weight (7-25-32, minus-11).

Jose Theodore (16/8/2, 2.87, .895) will start in net for the Caps.

WAS: PP-5th (22.7%, 44/194); PK-23rd (79.6%, 44/216)
NYI: PP-18th (17.2%, 32/186); PK-14th (82.0%, 36/200)

WAS: D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); RW Boyd Gordon (Back-probable); Shaone Morrison (Lower body- Day to Day)

NYI: C Mike Sillinger (Hip-IR); LW Sean Bergenheim (Side-Questionable); G Rick DiPietro (Knee-Out); LW Andy Hilbert (Foot-IR); G Joey MacDonald (Groin-Out); D Freddy Meyer (Groin-Questionable); D Andy Sutton (Foot-IR); C Doug Weight (Leg-IR)

Photo Gallery from Caps Win Over Boston 2-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, January 18, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »


All photos (c) C. Nichols 2009.