Quick Hits from Day One of Caps Training Camp

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, September 17, 2011 | , | 0 comments »

Yes, some were sucking wind during the first day of camp. (photo by Cheryl Nichols)

We'll have plenty of quotes in a longer post later on, but here are some quick observations from Day 1 of the Washington Capitals  2011 Training Camp.  Everyone (including us) has been talking about the shaving cream pie in the face Alex Ovechkin received from some of his running mates for his birthday, but there was actually hockey content as well.

First, injury updates.  D Tom Poti failed his physical and will be placed on the Long Term Injured List, according to GM George McPhee.  Poti is unable to participate in hockey drills of any kind even after the summer of rehabilitation.  The team will try a different tack with his conditioning, McPhee said, but they have no timetable for Poti's return.  McPhee did say, rather matter-of-factly, that like Brian Pothier two years ago, if and when Poti is healthy enough to return the Caps will welcome him back.

Other players that had injuries at the end of last season, such as Troy Brouwer (shoulder), John Erskine (shoulder) and Dennis Wideman (leg) all took the ice.  Wideman said he was game-ready "when they put me in" and Brouwer announced himself 100 percent fit, but Erskine wore an orange jersey today, indicating no heavy contact.  McPhee described Erskine's full rehab from surgery as a six-month process, but the Caps expect Big John to be able to play before that.  For him, it's a strength issue, not a range of motion issue.

Another big topic of today was the conditioning drill, the first ever for the Capitals at the start of camp.  Everyone asked said it was a good exercise -- and some looked completely worn out after the test.  Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about it as "data points" to use in the future for following seasons as a base line.  Mike Knuble described it as "part ball-busting and part team building," and that probably hit the nail on the head.  By the way, Knuble, participating in Group A with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson and Mike Green, "won" his flight.  It's a testament to the 38-year old's conditioning and core strength.

The only player to not complete the conditioning test was new D Roman Hamrlik.  Out of an abundance of caution, Boudreau instructed Hamrlik to stop the test when the veteran defenseman complained of his groin tightening.  We noticed in the team portion of his groups practice that Hamrlik appeared at times to not be going 100 percent full power.  Boudreau expects Hamrlik to practice Sunday and take the test perhaps next week.

Every player interviewed reiterated that this team will be measured not on regular season performance, but on the success -- or failure -- in the playoffs.  Newly acquired veterans such as Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Halpern spoke about their upcoming opportunity in D.C. as their best chance at a Cup in their careers.  Returning Caps veterans spoke about accountability and a renewed focus on the team construct.  It's telling that so many of the Caps veterans arrived to Kettler early the last couple of weeks, ready to meet this year's challenge.  It'll be interesting to follow this season to see how many are able to retain that enthusiasm as the seemingly endless regular season plods along.

We'll have much more over the next couple of days, including George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau talking about leadership, accountability, and their effort for the sport's top prize.  We'll have an in-depth discussion with goalie Tomas Vokoun, in a very daunting spot as a one-year free agent backstopping a championship-caliber team and the challenge of playing with a countryman -- at the same position -- who looked up to him as a youngster.  And comments from many players, new and returning, about their quest for the ultimate goal.

Oh, one last thing.  Brooks Laich was -- of course -- the first player on the ice this morning at a little past 9:00 am.

Photos: Ovi's Birthday Shaving Cream Pie

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Saturday, September 17, 2011 | , , , , , , | 1 comments »

After the first day of Caps training camp, several of the players spoke to the media. Alex Ovechkin was near the end of his comments when Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich decided to give Ovi a shaving cream pie in the face for this 26th birthday! And apparently, teammates had already given Ovi one in the locker room so this was the second one of the day. 

Here are photos of the fun, including the reactions from Nicky and Brooksy who were thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was obvious that this was a tradition because Backstrom said, "This was payback!" It is nice to have the boys back in town!

"This was payback!" - Backstrom

All Photos by Cheryl Nichols/CapsNewsNetwork
Caps 365 Video:

Capitals to Wear Third Sweater Select Road Games

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 16, 2011 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals announced this morning via press release they will be wearing the Winter Classic uniforms for 16 select road games in the upcoming season.  We cannot applaud this move enough.
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals will wear a third jersey modeled after their 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic jersey for 16 select road games during the 2011-12 season, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

The primary color for the uniform is white and closely resembles the team’s original jersey, worn from 1974-75 through 1994-95. The original Capitals wordmark is featured on the front of the jersey with six stars above it and five stars beneath the numbers on each sleeve.

The Capitals will wear red pants and white helmets with their new third jerseys.

The jerseys are available online at shop.NHL.com and will be available at the 2011 Capitals Convention presented by GEICO and Kettler Capitals Iceplex starting Sept. 24. The Verizon Center Team Store will begin offering the new third jerseys at the first preseason home game on Monday, Sept. 26 vs. Columbus.

Below is a schedule of the games the Capitals will wear the new third jerseys:

Saturday, Nov. 26 at Buffalo Sabres 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 23 at New Jersey Devils 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Montreal Canadiens 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 20 at Carolina Hurricanes 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 22 at Pittsburgh Penguins 3 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4 at Montreal Canadiens 2 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 12 at New York Rangers 3 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 20 at Carolina Hurricanes 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25 at Toronto Maple Leafs 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 at Boston Bruins 1 p.m.
Friday, March 16 at Winnipeg Jets 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 18 at Chicago Blackhawks 6 p.m.
Monday, March 19 at Detroit Red Wings 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 22 at Philadelphia Flyers 7 p.m.
Monday, April 2 at Tampa Bay Lightning 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 7 at New York Rangers 3 p.m.

(photo by C.Nichols/Caps News Network)

Capitals Fall to Flyers 3-2 in Rookie Game

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, September 15, 2011 | , , , | 0 comments »

In the grand scheme of things, the vast majority of the players on the ice today will never wear a sweater in an NHL game.  But for the rookies and free agent invitees that donned Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers gear for the annual rookie game, this game meant a lot to whether or not they would be gainfully employed playing for those respective organizations when camp breaks.

And for the fans, it didn't much matter who was wearing it, they were representing the Capitals and a return from a much-too-long summer of disappointment from another early-round playoff exit.

That the Flyers rookies defeated the Caps rookies 3-2 is pretty much immaterial.  In this case, it's not the "how many", but how the individuals handled their assignments, displayed their talents, and held their composure.

The Caps had a few standouts in this one, and they are names you'd expect to be on that list.  Defenseman Dmitry Orlov was the best player on the ice for either team in the game.  Stan Galiev had a beautiful drop pass to set up the first Caps goal by free agent Garrett Ross.  Garrett Mitchell had the second goal -- a third period rebound effort -- and did his customary work along the boards and in the corners.  Both goalies, Philipp Grubauer and Brandon Anderson were solid, with Anderson making a pair of spectacular saves in the late going.

Of course, some players have to take other measures to get noticed, so there were a handful of fights as well.  Dustin Stevenson, who donned the captain's C for the contest and also assisted on the Mitchell goal with a blast from the point, mixed it up, along with Reid Edmondson and Danick Paquette, acquired along with a fifth round pick for Eric Fehr.

Centers Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren, in a battle for perhaps the last roster spot with the big club this year, were both solid if unspectacular, and played together on the first power play unit.

So this first game -- scrimmage really -- is in the books.  Everybody got their feet wet, some players stood out and Caps fans finally got a small taste of the game.  With the veterans reporting Friday and camp opening in earnest on Saturday, the pressure gets ratcheted up a notch.

Who's ready?

Is It October Yet?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, September 12, 2011 | , | 0 comments »

It's been quite a summer, eh Caps fans?

First, it started way too early.  Then GM George McPhee re-signed the most expensive roadside assistance technician, traded all of his draft picks and former starting playoff goalie and acquired a quarter of this season's roster in 24 hours.  For good measure, he locked up a cornerstone on the blue line for a fraction of market value.

There was a good amount of buzz about Development Camp, but then we entered the doldrums of summer where lack of actual hockey news led our idle minds into discussions of immeasurable concepts and unsavory topics.  Pictures of Ovi surfaced that were less than flattering, forcing the Captain, the organization and now the team trainer to certify that no, Ovi's not fat, rather he's in the best shape of his life.  Then, of course, Matt Bradley voiced his opinion, opening all sorts of debate once again about leadership, chemistry and roster construction.  Now this.

I won't simply dismiss the concerns of some that think this team -- the whole organization, really -- is too "soft."  Is there a maturity issue?  Perhaps.  Does the organization coddle their superstars and show preference to those with higher salaries or stature?  Only those in the room know the answer.  Do we take the words of former players, possibly disgruntled, as gospel or is there a bigger picture that needs to be examined?  Either way, in my viewpoint there is nothing traitorous about discussing whether full effort or proper preparation has been given in the past.

What I know is this: the players report Friday for their physicals and Training Camp opens this Saturday, most likely before a filled-to-capacity crowd at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  Capitals hockey is being devoured like never before across our region and there appears no quenching that thirst.  Perhaps that all-encompassing devotion has lead to our late summer of rumor-mongering and name-calling. 

This is a fan base comprised of some very long-suffering faithful and even more recent converts.  After the raised expectations of the last few seasons though, the all-encompassing desire to see Lord Stanley's Cup finally raised in D.C. by those wearing the home team on their crest has produced enough passion that it has boiled over in some circles to the point where opinions are no longer respected and tolerated, and that's shameful.  The only folks Caps fans should bicker with are Flyers and Penguins fans.

There are huge expectations for this team, as there have been for the last few seasons.  But with all the moves McPhee made earlier this summer, there seems to be a renewed immediacy, at least for those closest to the organization.  Needs were identified throughout the roster and players acquired to address those needs.  A legitimate No. 1 goalie -- not someday, but right now -- fell into their laps. 

The players are in place.  Now is the time to get back on the ice and get to business.  Hockey is hard.   If it were easy, everyone would win a Cup. Twenty-nine teams lose every year.  There is nothing dishonorable about losing after giving full effort.  It's time for that effort to be renewed.  Not in words, but by deeds, on and off the ice.

Let the speculation end.  Let the back-biting and snipping and innuendo cease.  Let the media -- both mainstream and independent -- get back to reporting on hockey.  Let Caps fans put away their petty differences of opinion and unite to Rock the Red together again. 

It's not quite October yet, but finally -- finally -- we can see it from here.  And not a moment too soon.

Capitals Announce Training Camp Schedule and Roster

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, September 12, 2011 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals announced their training camp schedule and roster via press release today:

Every practice open and free to the public

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals will begin their 2011-12 Training Camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday, Sept. 17, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Training camp will last 19 days with the NHL regular season beginning on Thursday, Oct. 6. This marks the Capitals’ fifth training camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the Metro-accessible, inside-the-Beltway practice facility that features two NHL-sized rinks. All on-ice sessions, like every Capitals practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, will be open to the public and free of charge. The training camp roster will be broken up into three squads (Teams A, B, C) and their schedule will vary.
Washington will play its first preseason game at the Baltimore Hockey Classic on Tuesday, Sept. 20 vs. Nashville at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. The Capitals will open the 2011-12 regular season versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Oct. 8 at Verizon Center.
2011 Washington Capitals Training Camp Team Assignments

3 Tom Poti.......................... D
4 John Erskine..................... D
8 Alex Ovechkin.................. LW
17 D.J. King........................ LW
19 Nicklas Backstrom.......... C
21 Brooks Laich.................. C
22 Mike Knuble................... RW
28 Alexander Semin............. RW
30 Michal Neuvirth............... G
41 Patrick Wellar.................. D
43 Kyle Greentree................. LW
44 Roman Hamrlik................ D
46 Patrick McNeill................ D
52 Mike Green...................... D
62 Sean Collins...................... D
83 Jay Beagle........................ C
90 Marcus Johansson............. C

6 Dennis Wideman............... D
15 Jeff Halpern.................... C
16 Ryan Potulny.................. C/W
20 Troy Brouwer................. RW
25 Jason Chimera................. LW
26 Matt Hendricks................ C/LW
27 Karl Alzner....................... D
29 Tomas Vokoun................. G
38 Christian Hanson............... C/RW
39 Danny Richmond............... D
42 Joel Ward......................... RW
45 Zack Miskovic................... D
53 Jacob Micflikier................. LW
54 Joel Rechlicz..................... RW
55 Jeff Schultz........................ D
56 Chris Bourque................... RW/LW
59 Julien Brouillette................ D
67 Matthew Ford................... RW
70 Braden Holtby................... G
74 John Carlson...................... D
85 Mathieu Perreault............... C

23 Keith Aucoin...................... C
34 Boyd Kane........................ RW
35 Dany Sabourin................... G
36 Francois Bouchard............. RW
51 Graham Mink.................... RW
57 Paul Baier......................... .D
58 Maxime Lacroix................. LW
64 Andrew Carrol................... LW
72 Phil Oreskovic................... D 


Saturday, Sept. 17
9:15 a.m.Group A Practice
11:15 a.m.Group B Practice
1:15 p.m. Group C Practice

Sunday, Sept. 18
9:45 a.m.Group B Practice
11 a.m.Group C Practice
12:15 p.m. Group A Practice

Monday, Sept. 19
9:45 a.m.Group B Practice
11 a.m.Group A Practice
12:15 p.m. Group C Practice

Tuesday, Sept. 20
11 a.m. Morning Skate (1st Mariner Arena)
10:45 a.m. Scrimmage (Kettler)
7 p.m. Baltimore Hockey Classic vs. Nashville Predators

Wednesday, Sept. 21
9 a.m. Morning Skate
10:15 a.m. Practice
11:45 a.m. Practice
7 p.m. Game at Columbus Blue Jackets

Thursday, Sept. 22
10 a.m. Practice
11:45 a.m. Practice

Friday, Sept. 23
10 a.m. Morning Skate
11:15 am Practice
8:30 p.m. Game at Chicago Black Hawks

Saturday, Sept. 24
10 a.m. Practice
10 a.m. Capitals Convention presented by GEICO

Sunday, Sept. 25
10 a.m. Practice
11:45 a.m. Practice

Monday, Sept. 26
10 a.m.Morning Skate
11:15 a.m. Practice
7 p.m. Game vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Tuesday, Sept. 27
10:30 a.m. Practice

Wednesday, Sept. 28
10 a.m. Morning Skate
8 p.m. Game at Nashville Predators

Thursday, Sept. 29
11 a.m. Practice

Friday, Sept. 30
10 a.m. Morning Skate (Verizon Center)
7 p.m. Game vs. Buffalo Sabres

Saturday, Oct. 1
11 a.m. Practice

Sunday, Oct. 2
5 p.m. Game vs. Chicago Black Hawks

Monday, Oct. 3
Day Off