Please visit DC Sports Box to read my game story, Capitals Drop Third Straight at Home; Lose to Toronto 2-1, complete with quotes from coach Boudreau, Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Eric Fehr.

The Caps put forth a much better effort last night with unfortunately the same result. This team is having a very difficult time finishing right now, and coach Boudreau described his players as grasping their sticks too tightly right now in his post game comments.

Missing Ovechkin and Poti hurt, for sure. The power play looked especially lost, like they just weren't sure who should shoot. Granted, Ovechkin is a HUGE part of this offense, but they did not lack for chances, as Fedorov went out of his way to mention last night. They just couldn't finish.

Bradley breaks a stick. Fleishmann, in a all too familiar refrain now, shot high on an open net. Fehr and Laich couldn't get any lift when they had Gerber down. The only forward that showed any crispness on passes was Semin.

Boudreau made a quip about one of his players (he failed to mention which one) being nervous a couple games back, to which he replied, if he's nervous now, what's he gonna feel like in the playoffs? But that's where the team is at right now, teetering between Ovechkin and Semin's swagger and some of the others not trusting their stuff.

Maybe the big division lead and lofty status in some power rankings got some of these guys thinking "Are we ready for this?". Maybe the national attention on Green during his streak had some guys doubting their own ability.

Whatever it is, really, they need to forget about it and get back to playing hockey. Just let the natural talent take back over. Because fewer teams in hockey are as naturally talented--top to bottom--as this team.

CAPS GAME REPORT: Toronto 3/5/09

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, March 05, 2009 | | 0 comments »


Semin draws a hooking at 1: 06, and immediately gives it back with a lazy high stick on Pavel Kubina. Four-on-four hockey. Fleischmann misses a wide open net on an odd-man rush.

Turnover by Erskine leads to a banked shot goal by Stempniak. Stempniak was on the goal line and banked it off Theo's skate. Time of goal 6:05. WAS 0- TOR 1.

Caps can't clear their own end, and Kubina gets a shot from the point through a maze of legs. Time of goal 9:47. WAS 0-TOR 2.

Toronto just had a flurry and hit the post twice--once with the original shot and then again on th rebound. Any energy the Caps had been playing with tonight has escaped. There's just no crispness whatsoever anymore.

The Caps just switched goalies with just over 2 minutes left. Almost immediately Neuvirth comes off to go empty net.

Semin finallyhits with 39 seconds remaining. Backstrom won the offensive zone draw and Seimn solved Gerber with a wrist shot. WAS 1-TOR 2 Timeof goal 19:21.

SOG: WAS- 38; TOR-29


Laich got a good opportunity right off the bat, but Gerber knocked it aside.

Kozlov caught Finger up high on a follow though, leaving a trail of blood on the ice.

Schultz just stood someone up at the blue line. First time for everything.

Erskine takes a cross-cheack at 8:03. Schultz fell down at offensive blue line, giving Grabovsky a break-away. Fedorov hustled back to hassle him and Theo kicked it aside.

Fedorov takes a light hold at 12:20. One shot by the Leafs, swallowed up by Theo.

Caps get a power play at 15;56. Nothing to show for it.

SOG: WAS-23; TOR-17


The big news is that Ovechkin is scratched due to the foot injury at practice yesterday. Also, Tom Poti was scratched right at game time, probably due to the lingering groin injury, so the Caps will play down a skater.

Fedorov started at D and is paired with Jurcina. Here are the lines:


and 91/23, 55/4 and 52/26 on defense.

We get our first bit of controversy as Blake runs through Theodore and the rebound is pshed home by Mitchell. After the zebra conference they waived the goal off. Clearly goaltender interference.

PP at 18:22 goes fruitless. Caps will have 22 seconds with fresh ice.

SOG: WAS-13; TOR-9

Ovechkin Out For Tonight's Game

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Thursday, March 05, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Alex Ovechkin will miss tonight's home game vs. Toronto according to Caps.

Ovechkin is day-to-day with a foot injury incurred at Wednesday’s practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

The Washington Capitals (40-20-5-85, first in Southeast, third in East) host the Toronto Maple Leafs (25-26-13-63, fourth in Northeast, 11th in East) at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center.

Washington has lost their last two games--both at home--and are 3-4 since Feb. 20. The last two losses, to Carolina and Florida, are particularly troubling. Both Carolina and Florida find themselves in the position the Caps were last season, fighting for a playoff spot with the season winding down, thus every game, every point, matters.

The Capitals are fairly secure with their playoff spot this season, leading the Southeast Division by 11 points with 16 games to go. They trail New Jersey by two points for second in the conference, and are seven points up on Philadelphia in fourth.

Caps star left winger Alex Ovechkin, leading the NHL in goals with 46, had a little scare at practice yesterday. The reigning Hart Trophy winner took a slap shot off the boot and left the ice under duress, breaking several sticks along the way out of frustration. But after the initial shock wore off, and some treatment from teh Caps medical staff, Ovechkin is not expected to miss tonight's game.

"He's fine," coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice. "I'm not concerned. ... It's sore, but he's OK."

The Caps need their leader to be fine tonight, considering the way the team has played recently. "We're going through this funk right now," Boudreau said of his team's last two losses. "It looked like there was a complete lack of energy."

Some energy might have been found at the NHL trade deadline yesterday, but General Manager George McPhee decided to stand pat with the roster he has. While some names were moved yesterday, including several that the Cpas had interest in, McPhee did not pull the trigger on any deals, preferring to stay with the young players and minor leaguers that the team has accumulated in the last few years.

Help from within might be coming, however, as defenseman Brian Pothier was granted medical clearance to begin a conditioning stint with AHL Hershey. Under the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, the player has 14 days of rehab in the minors before the team has to either activate him or outright him to the minors, subjecting him to the waiver process.

Coach Boudreau said after this morning's skate, through Capitals Insider, that Ovechkin, Tom Poti (groin) and Jose Theodore (flu) will all play tonight. Michael Nylander, out for four games as a healthy scratch, could play as well.

Toronto enters this game with a new goaltender. Leafs GM Brain Burke acquired martin Gerber off re-entry waivers from Ottawa yesterday, after learning that Vesa Toskala will miss the remainder of the season with hip and groin surgery.

The Leafs also sent Nik Antropov to the New York Rangers and forward Dominic Moore to Buffalo, both for draft picks, further depleting their squad. They acquired Olie Kolzig, Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers from Tampa Bay, but Kolzig and Heward are both on the injury list.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.7%, 67-271); PK-22nd (79.4%, 66/320)
TOR: PP-13th (19.8%, 52/263); PK-29th (74.9%, 61/243)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Alex Ovechkin (Foot-Questionable); D Tom Poti (Groin-Questionable); G Jose Theodore (Flu-Questionable)

TOR: RW Niklas Hagman (Head-Questionable); D Tomas Kaberle (Hand-Questionable); G Vesa Toskala (Hip/groin-IR); D Jamie Heward (Concussion-IR); G Olaf Kolzig (Arm-IR)

Trade Deadline Passes; Caps Stand Pat

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, March 04, 2009 | , , , | 1 comments »

In the end, General Manager George McPhee didn't pull the trigger on any trade deadline deals this year, and the Washington Capitals will have to improve from within.

Plenty of players moved before the 3:00 p.m. eastern deadline, including several that at one point had been linked to the Capitals in some capacity. But after professing his desire to keep much of the young talent Washington has drafted and cultivated in the last few years, McPhee did just that.

And combined with the fact that he ultimately could not find a partner to take Michael Nylander's hefty contract to create cap room, McPhee fairly tied his own hands at this trading deadline.

All season long, Nylander's name has been featured prominently in trade rumors, at some point going to Chicago, Toronto, Nashville or Columbus--really anywhere that would take the remaining year and $5 million off the Caps' books. But Nyls' No Movement Clause made any deal subject to the player, and he was coy all along with his intentions.
"I'm just going to let it play out," Nylander said early Wednesday. "There's nothing I can do. In my case, I have a little say in what goes on. But I'm like everyone else." --Courtesy of Capitals Insider
There were some big names that traded places, but the really big names (Chris Pronger, Jay Bouwmeester, Ryan Smyth) stayed at home.

The Caps were rumored to be targeting a couple players that eventually did move, and unfortunately for the Caps, they went to conference rivals.

Bill Guerin went from the New York Islanders to Pittsburgh, giving the Penguins some much-needed grit and veteran leadership, and defenseman Derek Morris goes from Phoenix to the New York Rangers, along with Nik Antropov, formerly from Toronto.

McPhee is scheduled to address the media early this afternoon.

The Washington Capitals (40-20-5-85, first in Southeast) played a second straight game full of defensive indifference, sloppy passing and shoddy goaltending in falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 before 17,903 at Verizon Center last night. The non-capacity crowd halts the Caps' home sellout streak at 11 games.

The Capitals have lost four of their last six at home, all in convincing style.

Indicative of just how bad a night it was for the Capitals, Carolina's first three goals were a penalty shot and two short-handed markers. Patrick Eaves, who had scored three goals in 57 previous games, had a pair for Carolina, including one of the shorties.

The only highlight of the evening for Caps fans was Alexander Semin's 26th goal of the season and 100th of his career, scored from his knees in the left wing faceoff circle at the end of the second period, after the score was already 5-0.

Courtesy of Caps365

The Caps got another goal from Sergei Fedorov toward the end of the third period, but even that goal was marred. After scoring, several teammates came over to congratulate Fedorov and the pile took a tumble to the ice. Coach Bruce Boudreau was not happy at the possibility of perceived overexuberance.

"That was pretty embarrassing," Washington's coach said. "I'm sure if I was on the Carolina bench, I'd be going: 'Look at these idiots.' "

Boudreau's comments after the game were not limited to just the goal celebration.

"There are a lot of individuals making a lot of mistakes," Boudreau said. "And short of sitting them out -- I don't know if we're at the stage yet -- it's bringing them in, showing them, talking to them in front of the [other] players. When you try to do it individually, good things don't happen. Teams win games. Teams win championships. Individuals don't."

Forward Brooks Laich, who is sounding more and more like captain material every day, agreed with his coach.

"They just outworked us," he said. "I don't care what you say about talent and everything, this game is about heart. The team that works the hardest is usually the team that's going to win. Tonight, they wanted it more and that's not easy to sit here and say."

Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth was shaky as well, allowing five goals on 30 shots, and appeared overmatched at times.

Washington outshot Carolina 41-30.


Today is the NHL trade deadline, and while GM George McPhee has gone on records saying the team would probably not do anything "big", he said as much last season before pulling deadline deals for Fedorov and goalie Cristobal Huet.

Much of the season, Michael Nylander's name has been mentioned in trade rumors, and the fact that the veteran pivot has been a healthy scratch for four straight games adds fuel to the speculation.

Additionally, defenseman Tom Poti was pulled from the lineup last night at the last minute, raising questions about his future. The team said Poti was suffering from a tweak of the groin injury that shelved him earlier in the season, but last night was the first that the injury had been mentioned.

The Caps should be in the market for a stay-at-home defenseman, a veteran backup goaltender, and maybe a gritty forward.

Game 65 Preview: Caps Have Carolina On Their Minds

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (40-19-5-85, first in Southeast, T-2 in East) host the Carolina Hurricanes (32-27-5-69, third in Southeast, T-9 in East) at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center

The Caps are reeling a little bit lately despite playing six of their last seven games at home. They are 4-3 over that stretch, having dropped to Colorado, Philadelphia and, most recently, Florida at Verizon Center, where they had built the Eastern Conference's best home record of 25-7-1.

Washington did not look like a team battling for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday. Rather, in the 6-2 loss to Florida, all their faults were illustrated and magnified.

Too many minor penalties, leading to three power play goals against in the first period alone. Defensive indifference, to the point of putting 39 year old center Sergei Fedorov on defense in the third period. Shaky goaltending by starter Jose Theodore, allowing four goals on 17 shots in the first period before being lifted for backup Michal Neuvirth.

But perhaps worst of all was the general malaise the team found itself in, despite scoring the first goal of the game less than two minutes into it. It was the classic "mailing it in" game. And really, using the second night of a back-to-back excuse was void, since at least Washington was in its own building. Florida was playing a back-to-back, all on the road, and cane out with more energy and passion than the home team did.

Coach Bruce Boudreau didn't have the answers in the postgame press conference. "We got beat to every loose puck. It seemed like they had the puck in the power play for the whole two minutes in our zone every time," Boudreau said. "I can't sugarcoat it and I can't find excuses for it. We weren't very good."

The Hurricanes look to rebound from a very disappointing loss themselves.

Carolina (32-27-5) appeared on the way to its fifth win in six games with a two-goal lead midway through the third period Saturday night at Atlanta - the league's worst home team. The Thrashers, however, stunned the Hurricanes by scoring four straight goals en route to a 5-3 victory.

A win over Atlanta would have put Carolina in the top eight of the conference, but they still find themselves one point behind Pittsburgh for that final playoff spot.

Carolina is led by Ray Whitney (18-33-51, minus-10), Eric Staal (27-22-49, minus-1) and Tuomo Ruutu (17-22-39, minus-5). Cam Ward is their starting goalie, and he is 26-21-5 in 51 games with a 2.58 goals against and .909 save percentage.

The Caps expect to welcome back RW Viktor Kozlov after missing Sunday's game nursing his lingering groin injury. Additionally, Staffan Kronwall will be in the lineup as well, leaving Michael Nylander and John Erskine as the healthy scratches. Theodore is scheduled to start between the pipes.

With the NHL trade deadline approaching on Wednesday, Nylander may find himself part of that mix, as he's now been scratched for four consecutive games, including the loss Sunday when Jay Beagle was called up from AHL Hershey to replace Kozlov on the active roster.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.7%, 66-267); PK-22nd (79.4%, 65-315)
CAR: PP-25th (15.8%, 46/292); PK-25th (79.2%, 49-236)

WAS: RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-Probable); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)
CAR: LW Jussi Jokinen (Personal-Doubtful); D David Tanabe (Concussion-Out); RW Scott Walker (Concussion-IR); RW Justin Williams (Hand-IR)

Don Cherry is a Clown

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, March 02, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

I'm sure by now you've seen or read about Don Cherry's comments about Alex Ovechkin's exuberance, but if you were, like me, off-line this weekend, then here they are.

This is beyond idiotic. The "Canadian Way". The "Soccer Guys". It's called enthusiasm. His rant is absolutely asinine. The Capitals play an exciting brand of hockey, despite some flaws, and do it with style and enthusiasm. Apologies to Don Cherry if he thinks Ovie is a "goof", as if every hockey player should adhere to the Canadian farm boy ethic of keeping his head down and doing his hard work in anonymity.

It's a load of rubbish, is what it is. Defending Sidney Crosby, the nut-busting, cheap-shotting crybaby that he is and denouncing Alex Ovechkin, the greatest player in the world because he plays with passion and unbridled enthusiasm. Pathetic.

The really damaging part though is when he basically challenged any anonymous Canadian farm boy defenseman to "get him good" one time, as if Cherry was mandating an attack on Ovechkin, to defend the "Canadian Way". He basically called for Ovechkin's head. Bush league.

"I'm going to tell you about this guy: He's got a free ride. He runs at guys, does this stuff," Cherry said. "I am predicting somebody's going to get him. And somebody's going to get him good. There's somebody out there - some big defenseman is going to be sitting in the weeds. As he cuts across center ice, somebody's going to cut him in half."

Those words are irresponsible.

There was a time and a place for Don Cherry, but his expiration date has clearly run out. He's now been reduced to making outlandish, ridiculous statements solely to hear himself talk, and his opinions are just as clownish as the costumes that he wears.

For their parts, Ovechkin and coach Bruce Boudreau handled Cherry's comments with grace and, in Ovie's case, trademark humor.

"He's a funny guy and old guy. He likes old-fashioned hockey. He's not interesting to me, so he can say whatever he wants. I don't care about him," Ovechkin said.

It's good that Ovechkin can take the high road in this. But I don't have to.

Don Cherry is a clown.

Game 64 Review: Caps Mail One In On Sunday

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, March 01, 2009 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Today's post-game report is brought to you by the United States Postal Service. Because if the Caps can mail it in, so can I.

The defense: atrocious. Jose Theodore: not much better. The energy: non-existent. The penalties: way too many, once again.

The Washington Capitals (40-19-5-85, first in Southeast) were outhustled and outplayed by the Florida Panthers (32-23-8-72, second in Southeast) Sunday afternoon 6-2, before another sellout crowd that expected to see the Capitals team that beat Boston and Pittsburgh in the last week and a half, but instead saw the return of the Caps team that was embarrassed by Colorado and Philadelphia.

The Caps scored 1:26 into the game, as Alexander Semin got a puck through Florida goalie Craig Anderson. But that would be it for the cheering from the Caps faithful, as Washington gave up three straight power play goals to a team that had not scored a power play marker in five games, and a total of four in the first period.

Coach Bruce Boudreau lifted starting goalie Jose Theodore after surrendering four goals in 17 shots in the first, but Florida scored another goal in the second and third periods against rookie Michal Neuvirth to take a 6-1 lead. Anderson got sloppy with an Alex Ovechkin snap shot that bounced out of his glove and into the net with 22 seconds remaining in the game, but it was little consolation.

The play extended Niklas Backstrom's consecutive scoring streak to a career-high 10 games.

As usual, Boudreau was brutally honest in the post-game report. "We got beat to every loose puck. It seemed like they had the puck in the power play for the whole two minutes in our zone every time," Boudreau said. "I can't sugarcoat it and I can't find excuses for it. We weren't very good."

The Caps are now 4-4 in their last eight games at home, and three of their last four home games have been demoralizing losses to last-place Colorado, the third period meltdown against Philly, and today's embarrassment.

The Caps host Carolina Tuesday night at 7:00 pm. We shall see which Caps team shows up for that one.

01:26 Power Play - Alexander Semin (25), Slap Shot. Assist: Laich
03:53 Power Play - Stephen Weiss (11), Wrist Shot. Assist: McCabe, Frolik
06:59 Power Play - Bryan McCabe (12), Wrist Shot. Assist: Bouwmeester
14:19 Power Play - Jay Bouwmeester (13), Slap Shot. Assist: Weiss, McCabe
16:16 Richard Zednik (13), Slap Shot. Assist: Ballard, McLean

10:24 Jassen Cullimore (2), Slap Shot. Assist: McLean, Weiss

07:20 Michael Frolik (15), Slap Shot. Assist: McCabe, Ballard
19:38 Alex Ovechkin (46), Snap Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Jurcina

1. J. Bouwmeester - FLA (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. B. McCabe - FLA (Goals: 1, Assists: 3)
3. S. Weiss - FLA (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)

Viktor Kozlov was scratched with the lingering groin injury. Jay Beagle was recalled from AHL Hershey to replace Kozlov. Michael Nylander and Staffan Kronwall were healthy scratches.

Game 64 Preview: Washington Hosts Florida Panthers

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Sunday, March 01, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (40-18-5-85, first in Southeast) host the Florida Panthers (31-23-8-70, second in Southeast) at 3:00 pm from Verizon Center.


WAS: PP-3rd (24.5%, 65/265); PK-19th (79.9%, 62/309)
FLA: PP-29th (14.8%, 35/237); PK-11th (82.7%, 43/248)



G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)
FLA: D Bryan Allen (Knee-IR); D Nick Boynton (Personal-Out); LW Cory Stillman (Ankle-Questionable); G Tomas Vokoun (Ear Infection-Questionalbe); LW Rostislav Olesz (Groin-IR)