Caps Lose Game, Clinch Division Title

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, April 04, 2009 | , , , , , , | 0 comments »

In an uneven but exciting affair, the Washington Capitals lost in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres 5-4. Needing a single point to clinch the Southeast Division championship, the Caps received just that.

But an overtime goal by Jason Pominville, off a turnover in his own end by future hall-of-famer Sergei Fedorov, ruined the celebration.

As the Sabres collected on the Verizon Center ice to celebrate, um, something, the Caps headed to the locker room with slumped shoulders, knowing that they left a needed point out on the ice tonight. New Jersey beat Tampa by an identical 5-4 overtime score, so the Caps find themselves just two points ahead of Satan's minions with four games remaining.

Oh by the way, three of which are on the road due to the VC being overrun with the legions of fans of Bemidji State University.

Fedorov had a heck of a night, scoring twice on big, booming slap shots. But he also took a lazy hook which led to Buffalo's third goal in addition to the turnover in overtime.

Actually, the real score of tonight's game was Caps 7, Buffalo 2. Three of Buffalo's goals touched a Caps player last, and the second goal was a thing of beauty for Viktor Kozlov, redirecting a Clarke MacArthur pass past a sliding Simeon Varlamov like he meant to.

Varlamov, making his fourth start, looked sharp at times and shaky at times, something one would expect from a rookie playing in a playoff atmosphere. He is a much better skater and puck-handler than Jose Theodore, so much so the comparisons are drastic.

But he found himself out of position and scrambling every single time the puck was behind his own net. He's a tremendous athlete, that much is certain. And his athleticism allowed him to recover from mistakes several times tonight. But he still has some growing to do before he's an NHL regular.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 55th of the season, keeping alive the possible 60-goal repeat. Brooks Laich made a nifty backhand pass through the crease allowing Ovie to deposit the puck into a mostly open net.

And Ovie's running mate, Alexander Semin, registered his 30th of the year. That gives the Caps three players with 30-plus goals, and with Fed's pair he cracks double digits, giving the Caps nine players with 10 or more goals.

Washington plays their last home game Sunday against the suddenly resurgent Atlanta Thrashers at 3:00 pm.

Fans should celebrate back-to-back division titles. But the team has bigger goals, and leaving the extra point behind tonight was disappointing.

Enjoy the slideshow. Uncle Ted spoke to season ticket holders before the game, so some shots of that are in there as well. The big news from the chalk talk is that Uncle Ted thinks they'll have to have a waiting list for season tickets next year. Caps fever, catch it!

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 78: Caps Hope to Rattle the Sabres

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, April 03, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

The Buffalo Sabres (37-30-9-83, third in Northeast, 10th in East) enter tonight's game against the Washington Capitals (47-23-7-101, first in Southeast, second in East) in a position all too familiar to Caps fans.

Currently, Buffalo is in tenth place in the conference, six points behind eighth place New York Rangers, with six games remaining. They actually have two games in hand over the Rangers, but the Florida Panthers are in the mix as well, in ninth place with 87 points. So every point is crucial for the Sabres.

To make matters worse, Buffalo embarks on a three-game road trip where they will face the Caps, New Jersey tomorrow night, and Detroit on Monday. Their fleeting playoff hopes could be over at the end of the weekend.

Washington, on the other hand, knows that they'll be playing into mid-April, just not against whom. With the Southeast Division sewn up, the Caps have the conference's second seed in sight, and currently lead the aforementioned Devils by three in that race. The Capitals are 28-9-2 at home this season, and would like nothing more than to achieve home-ice advantage for as long as they can in the playoffs.

The season series between the two teams favors Washington, two games to one. The Sabres spanked the Caps 5-0 in Buffalo on Nov. 1, with the Caps taking a pair of one goal games in the span of four days in December.

The offense seems to be heating back up for the Caps, as they've registers 14 goals in their last three home games, all wins, after a disappointing four-game home losing streak.

The Caps are led, as always, by Alex Ovechkin. The Russian Machine has four goals and three assists in his last three games and has reached 100 points for the third time in his four NHL seasons. With 54 goals, he still has an outside shot to reach the magical 60 goal mark, though he needs six goals in five games.

Want to challenge him?

Defenseman Mike Green reached a lofty achievement himself in the Caps 5-3 win over the New York Islanders Wednesday night. He broke the mark for team power play goals by a defenseman, with 19, and scored his 30th goal of the season, a feat accomplished by just eight defensemen in NHL history, and first since Washington's Kevin Hatcher in the 1993-94 season.

Alexander Semin needs one goal for the 30-goal mark, and Brooks Laich has 19 goals, just one short of a milestone as well.

Coach Bruce Boudreau expects to have Simeon Varlamov in net tonight. He is 3-0-0 in four games with a 1.74 goals against average and a sparkling .939 save percentage.

Buffalo should counter with Ryan Miller (31-16-8, 2.52, .918), traditionally a Caps-killer, with a lifetime 8-3-0 record and 2.53 goals against average when facing the Caps.

WAS: PP-2nd (25.2%, 79/314); PK-20th (79.9%, 73/364)
BUF: PP-7th (21.5%, 72/335); PK-10th (82.7%, 54/313)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); LW Donald Brashear (Knee-IR); C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out)
BUF: None listed.

Mike Green scored a pair of power play goals 1:23 apart in the third period to lead the Washington Capitals over the league-worst New York Islanders 5-3 before 18,277 at Verizon Center. It's just the eighth time in history the 30-goal mark has been reached by a defenseman.

Once again, the Capitals (47-23-7-101, first in Southeast, second in East) found themselves playing down to lower competition through much of the first half of this contest, trailing New York--the lowest scoring team in the NHL--by two goals until 5:37 of the second period, when Alex Ovechkin registered his league-leading 54th goal of the season off a nifty feed by veteran center Sergei Fedorov.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that goal. Jeff Schultz got into a fight. No, really. It was Schultz' first career fighting major, and it came after Green launched himself at unsuspecting Islander Andy Hibbert along the boards. Honestly, it was mildly surprising Green did not receive more than the two minute charging penalty he was assessed.

Regardless, Schultz was involved in the fracas following, and somehow got tied up with Tim Jackman, the Islanders rugged winger. While Schultz spent the better part of the fight avoiding getting hit, it was apparent that the shot of adrenaline woke the Caps out of their early-game stupor to take control of the contest.

John Erskine got the rough stuff started a few minutes earlier, as he tussled with Joel Rechicz as the undercard to the Schultz-Jackman main event.

Green's first goal was a one-timer from the wing off a feed from Alexander Semin, who seemed to be sleepwalking though much of the rest of the game, with multiple turnovers and lazy skating. That goal tied Green for first all-time among Capitals defensemen with 17, a record he would hold for his own just moments later.

The second goal was a long, soft wrist shot from the point that managed to escape Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald, though the goalie was distracted by Tomas Fleischman, who was in the general vicinity.

Green now has 30 goals on the season, the first time an NHL defenseman has hit that mark since the Caps' Kevin Hatcher in the 1993-94 season. Green is only the eighth defenseman in NHL history to eclipse the 30-goal mark.

Keith Aucoin scored his first goal as a Washington Capital and Nicklas Backstrom added an empty net goal to cap the scoring.

With the win, the Caps will clinch first place in the Southeast with any other win or Carolina loss. They also took a three point lead over New Jersey for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, as the Devils suffered their sixth straight defeat, losing to Pittsburgh 6-1 last night.

Washington faces the Buffalo Sabres Friday night at Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m.

14:04 Power Play - Kyle Okposo (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nielsen

37.0 Frans Nielsen (8), Tip-In. Assist: Tambellini, Okposo
05:37 Alex Ovechkin (54), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fedorov, Green
09:54 Keith Aucoin (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fehr

02:12 Richard Park (13), Backhand Shot, Unassisted.
10:55 Power Play - Mike Green (29), Wrist Shot. Assist: Semin, Backstrom
12:18 Power Play - Mike Green (30), Snap Shot, Unassisted.
19:04 Nicklas Backstrom (22), Empty Net, Unassisted

1. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
2. J. MacDonald - NYI (Saves: 38, Save Pct: .905)
3. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Defenseman Brain Pothier was named as a finalist for the Masterson Trophy, awarded to the player who best personifies hard work and dedication to the game of hockey.

The Capitals are up to 47 wins, a total they haven't eclipsed since 1983-84, and have 101 points, a mark they haven't topped since getting 102 in 1999-00.

Ovechkin's 33rd home goal of the season broke the team mark he set in 2007-08.

Washington's Donald Brashear missed his ninth consecutive game with a knee injury, but the team expects the enforcer to be available for the playoffs.

Washington outshot New York 43-27, dominating play in the third period with a 22-9 shot advantage.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2009. All rights reserved.

CAPS GAME DAY--Game 77: Caps Host Worst Team In The League

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, April 01, 2009 | , , | 1 comments »

The Washington Capitals (46-23-7-99, first in Southeast, second in East) host the New York Islanders, owners of the worst record in the NHL (25-41-9-59, fifth in Northeast) at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.

The undermanned Islanders have lost all three meetings to the Capitals this season, being outscored 12-7.

New York ranks near the bottom of the league in goals per game (2.48) and have scored the fewest overall (189). Their leading scorer, All-Star defenseman Kyle Streit, has 55 points (16-39-55, plus-9), which would rank him fifth on the Caps. No other Islander has more than 36 points, a number six Capitals have eclipsed.

Streit has a sore groin and did not travel with the team for tonight's game.

Goalie Joey MacDonald (14-24-6, 3.21, .903) has struggled at times this season, but was sharp Friday night in a 2-0 shutout of Detroit. He made 42 saves in the effort against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Yann Denis (9-13-9, 2.66, .916) had started a few games with MacDonald nursing a sore knee.

The Caps have only played twice in 10 days, a shootout loss to Toronto last Tuesday and a fairly dominant win over bottomfeeder Tampa Bay, 5-3 on Friday night. The Caps now have three games in five days to wrap up the home schedule and create some distance between them and New Jersey, one point behind them for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Suddenly slumping New Jersey has lost five games in a row, including Monday's 3-0 shutout to the hands of the Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers.

With six games remaining, the no. 2 seed is not the only thing the Caps are playing for.

Alex Ovechkin needs seven goals to record back-to-back 60 goal seasons. Alexander Semin needs just one goal to break the 30 goal mark, and defenseman Mike Green needs two goals to achieve the same feat, something a defenseman hasn't done in 16 years.

Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann both have the 20-goal plateau in their sights. Laich has 19 goals and Flash has 17.

Capitals Insider reports that Milan Jurcina will be a healthy scratch on the blueline tonight, while Jose Theodore will start in goal for the Capitals. Enforcer Donald Brashear will miss another game with a sprained left knee. Keith Aucoin will skate in his place on the fourth line.

WAS: PP-2nd (24.8%, 77/311); PK-21st (80.1, 72/361)
NYI: PP-22nd (16.9%, 50/296); PK-12th (82.3%, 58/327)

WAS: LW Donald Brashear (Knee-IR); C Boyd Gordon (Finger-IR); G Brent Johnson (Hip-IR); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); LW Quintin Laing (Spleen-Out); LW Alexander Semin (Flu-Questionable)

NYI: D Freddy Meyer (Groin-IR); D Andy Sutton (Foot-IR); LW Sean Bergenheim (Groin-Out); RW Trent Hunter (Ankle-Out); RW Kurtis McLean (Leg-Out); G Rick DiPietro (Knee-IR); C Mike Sillinger (Hip-IR)

SLIDESHOW: Caps at Panthers, 3/17/2009

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Monday, March 30, 2009 | , , | 3 comments »

Posted by Cheryl Nichols

We were able to squeeze in a hockey game in the middle of our 7th annual MLB spring training pilgrimage to Florida! The Caps just so happened to be playing in Florida and beat the Panthers 3-0.

We were hoping that Ovechkin would score goal #50 that night, but no such luck. We did get to see the only two left-handed goalies in the league start in the same game!

Dave did a review of the game, however, thought I would give a little more color to the night with some photos.

It was our first time to Bank Atlantic Arena and definitely a first time walking through a palm-tree lined walkway to get to a hockey game!

Here are 10 observations that we made that night:

1. Before the game, the Panthers starting lineup was announced, however, not the Caps!

2. We are spoiled by Verizon Center's gorgeous HD Scoreboard.
Their scoreboard is a little outdated.
3. There are no TVs in corridor so you cannot see game if you get up to get food or drink.

4. Food was delicious for arena food. Very tasty.

5. There is an ABSOLUT BAR!! Very cool. Grab 'n Go bars are good idea too.

6. The crowd is not very lively and no "horn guy" or "GOAT" in their arena. They did have the "Cat"Ling Gun which shot off about 20 t-shirts at the same time which was pretty darn cool.

7. The team store is HUGE and they carry gear for ALL NHL teams! Nice stuff.

8. The Panthers have a nice display of memorabilia and historic moments.

9. They have ice dancers. Yes, ice dancers, however, they do not dance anywhere near the ice! All of the Caps fans around us had the same reaction we did. Wow. Followed by being horrified. The girls "dance" all game and do a few things between periods as well. I captured a few seconds of the St. Patrick's Day dance (I just couldn't bring myself to record more than I did!). The following video is posted especially for those who were outraged by the "Red Rockers."

10. Verizon Center is the best place to watch hockey. :)


All photos (c) C. Nichols 2009. All rights reserved.

Pictures from Friday Night's Victory Over Tampa Bay

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, March 29, 2009 | | 4 comments »

Thanks to Jenn McAdoo for forwarding pictures from Friday Night's game.

Tampa Goalie Mike McKenna takes exception to a play early in the game.

Brooks Laich had a goal waived off when the refs ruled that Michael Nylander was in contact with McKenna. Do YOU see any contact?

Alex Ovechkin shooting on net.

Ovechkin admires his handiwork.

Ovie's open net goal with seven seconds left was his 100th point of the season.

All photos (c) J. McAdoo 2009. All rights reserved.