Holtby Recalled to Back Up Varlamov

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, October 16, 2009 | , , , , , | 1 comments »

The Caps recalled goalie Braden Holtby from South Carolina of the East Coast League to back up Semyon Varlamov tomorrow night.  Holtby started the season at AHL Hershey, but was assigned to ECHL's Stingrays on Oct. 13 when Michal Neuvirth was pronounced fit to play. 

Snce Neuvirth has yet to appear in a game since his activation, Holtby got the call to make his NHL debut tomorrow when Nashville comes calling.

Here's Holtby's bio from capitals.nhl.com:
The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, native was the Capitals’ fourth-round choice, 93rd overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He played 61 games for Saskatoon in the Western Hockey League last year and posted a 40-16-4 record, a 2.62 GAA and a .910 save percentage. His 40 wins ranked second in the league while his six shutouts tied for third. He was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference Goaltender of the Year and was a finalist for the WHL Goaltender of the Year. Holtby joined Hershey at the end of the Blades’ season and was a backup for one game in the Bears’ Calder Cup run.
Jose Theodore did not practice today with lingering back spasms, so Brett "Stretch" Leonhardt, web producer, NHL.com personality, and bon vivant, strapped on the pads during practice this morning.

Theodore is listed as day-to-day after being removed from Thursday's 4-1 victory over San Jose.

To make room for Holtby under the salary cap, Tomas Fleischmann was put on the Long Term Injured List, meaning he will have to miss a total of at least 10 games before beign reactivated.  "Flash" has already missed seven games rehabbing from the blodd clot in his leg and was expected to miss at least three more.

Slideshow: Sharks at Caps, 10/15/2009

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, October 16, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Photos © 2009 C. Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

GAME 7 REVIEW: Return of Capitals Hockey, 4-1 Over Sharks

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, October 15, 2009 | , , | 2 comments »

For the first time since opening night against Boston, the Washington Capitals played a full 60-minute hockey game Thursday night.  The victim was the San Jose Sharks, as the Caps got four goals, played steady defense, and wore down the Sharks in the third period, winning 4-1 in front of a worked-up capacity crowd.

Alex Ovechkin scored two second period goals within 30 seconds of each other, Alexander Semin scored on a five-on-three in the first period, and Matt Bradley capped the scoring in the third period.

On top of the offensive prowess, the Caps played strong defensively, keeping shots on starter Jose Theodore, and then backup Semyon Varlamov to the outside and out of the crease for the most part. 

The bad news for the Caps was an injury to Theodore.  After the game, the team called Theodore day-to-day, and did not announce whether they would recall a goalie from the minors until tomorrow or Saturday.

Theodore made 12 saves, allowing the lone San Jose goal in the first period, then left between periods to the confusion of the crowd.  Varlamov came in at the beginning of the second period, and made 15 saves the rest of the way out.

The Sharks didn't really test Varlamov as they simply ran out of gas, the product of the Capitals skating very well in the first period and drawing five minor penalties on the first period. 

They spent the entire period killing off the infractions, and while they did most of the job -- allowing just the single goal -- but skating a man down for most of the period really wore down the Sharks, and the Capitals took advantage, particularly Ovechkin.

The first Ovechkin goal was on a nifty set-up from Mike Knuble, a backhanded pass that Knuble slid under Mark Vlasic, and Ovie tipped it past Evgeni Nabokov low glove side for his sixth goal of the season.

Twenty-eight seconds later, Knuble rushed in on the right wing and blasted a shot into Nabokov, and the puck bounced straight to Ovechkin, who tapped it past the sprawled goalie.

The Capitals play Saturday night, when Nashville makes an appearance at Verizon Center.  Whether or not they wil have the services of one of their starting goalies is another story.

07:21 Power Play - Alexander Semin (6), Wrist Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green
14:07 Benn Ferriero (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nichol, Huskins

02:55 Alex Ovechkin (6), Tip-In. Assist: Knuble, Morrison
03:23 Alex Ovechkin (7), Wrist Shot. Assist: Knuble, Morrison

05:11 Matt Bradley (2), Tip-In. Assist: Jurcina

1. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. M. Knuble - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
3. A. Semin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)_______________________________________________________

Boyd Gordon was scratched with back spasms.  He is day-to-day.  Keith Aucoin was recalled from AHL Hershey and played on the third line.

Michael Nylander was a healthy scratch, yet again.

The win breaks a six-game losing streak the Caps had been carrying agaisnt San Jose in D.C., dating back to 1999.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 7: Beware the Circling Sharks

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, October 15, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

San Jose Sharks (3-2-1, 7 pts, 3rd in Pacific Division)
Washington Capitals (2-2-2, 6 pts, 2nd in Southeast Division)

The San Jose Sharks make a rare appearance at Verizon Center for their first stop on a six-game eastern swing.  For Washington, it's the middle game of a three-game home stand that got off to a disappointing start with a shootout loss to New Jersey, their fourth straight defeat.

The Sharks bring an exciting, fast paced offense -- quite similar to the home team -- backed by Evgeni Nabokov, one of the best in the business between the pipes.

Nabokov has had the Capitals number in his career, going 8-0-0 with a 1.98 GAA in eight career starts against Washington.

"It's great to have him back there," center Scott Nichol said of Nabokov (3-1-2, 2.68, .907 this season). "You know he's going to make the save."

The Sharks in general have had their way with the Caps in their history.  San Jose has won six straight contests in the nation's capital, dating back to 1999, and 11 overall in the series.

San Jose is lead by veteran Joe Thornton (1-9-10, +1), one of the best set-up guys in the league, and newcomer Dany Heatley, acquired by the Sharks during pre-season from Ottawa.  He and Patrick Marleau both have five goals in a quick start to the season. 

Dan Boyle is the Sharks leader on defense, a good puck handler and capable in his own end.

"They have a tremendous offense," coach Bruce Boudreau told assembled media yesterday. "That's why they won the President's Trophy last year as the best team in the league. It's going to be a huge test.

Washington hopes to break a four-game skid, though they took a point away from two of the losses.

The Caps raced out of the box this season, scoring 10 goals in their first two games, but have struggled a bit offensively during the losing streak.  Washington went zero-for-five on the power play Tuesday night, after managing one goal in nine tries last week versus New York.

"We've gone through a whole lot of units, whether it's Mike [Knuble] or Semin," Boudreau said. "The same thing happened last year, and then we caught on late in October and the power play was very good after that."

The Caps come in a bit banged up, as defenseman John Erskine was placed on IR, expected to miss three games.  Forward Keith Aucoin was recalled, as center Boyd Gordon has been experiencing discomfort with his chronic back problem.

Jose Theodore, who has a .930 save percentage in his past four starts, will start tonight. Theodore is 6-6-0 with a 2.56 goals against average and .919 save percentage all-time against San Jose.




Scratches:  Aucoin, Nylander, Schultz, Sloan

WAS: GF: 6th (22/3.67); GA: 21st (20/3.33); PP: 18th (6/29, 20.7%); PK: 13th (6/32, 81.2%)

SJ: GF: 11th (20/3.33); GA: 14th (17/2.83); PP: 12th (7/28, 25%): PK: 8th (5/30, 83.3%)

WAS:  G:  Ovechkin, Semin (5)  A:  Backstrom (8)  P:  Ovechkin (12)  +/-: Ovechkin, Backstrom (+7)
SJ:  G:  Heatley (5)  A:  Thornton (9)   P:  Heatley, Thornton (10)   +/-:  Heatley, Demers (+3)

WAS:  F Tomas Fleischmann (IR-leg), D John Erskine (IR-hand), F Boyd Gordon (DTD-back)
SJ:  C Torrey Mitchell (IR-knee), C Joe Pavelski (out-foot)

For Capitals, Rollercoaster Party Is Analogy

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

Photos © 2009 C. Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

The Washington Capitals had a party for their season ticket holders -- all 14,000 of them -- Tuesday night at Six Flags Amusement Park in suburban Maryland.  With the park shut down to paying customers, the fans were treated to all the roller coaster rides, autographs and hot dogs they wanted.

And the kicker:  when you got on a ride, you might have been sitting next to your favorite Capitals player.

Yes, the players probably had more fun riding the rides than the fans.  From superstar Alex Ovechkin down to the fourth-line wingers, all the players took turns on the Superman, Batman's Wing or Joker's Jinx.  In fact, Alexes Ovechkin and Semin were having so much fun, they were somewhat tardy for their autograph sessions.

Then, when the signings were over, they went back for more.

While a good time was had by all, it's hard not to see the rollercoaster experience as analogy for the Capitals' season, especially for the collection of players they have currently assembled.

The first thing you notice about a coaster is speed.  It's what puts the thrill into the ride.  Unless you're a daredevil motorcyclist, you normally don't go 70 MPH with most of your body exposed to the elements.

The Capitals play with that type of speed on the ice.  Coach Bruce Boudreau's system is aggressive, fast-paced attack/counter attack.

Roller coasters very rarely go backwards, either.

Then, there are the climbs and descents, engineered in the ride to make your stomach flip and make you feel queasy, uneasy in your seat.  If you ride the ride enough, you even know when bad parts are coming.

A hockey season -- even a single game --  certainly has its ups and downs as well, with winning and losing streaks, spates of good and poor play, etc.  As with the ride, once you've watched the Caps long enough you can tell when Ovie might pull off some magic.  Or conversely, see Semin get caught up ice leading to a breakaway the other way.

There are the twists and curves, unexpected jolts that throw you around in your seat and leave you battered and a little bruised, but not enough that you don't want to rush right back in line.

The Capitals have seen their share of twists early on as well.  Michael Nylander's contract and playing status is unfolding in a way that very few people, including probably GM George McPhee, expected. 

And while the team has managed to avoid any major injuries at this point, Ds John Erskine and Tom Poti have already missed practice time and Erskine is expected to miss a game or two with an upper body injury after blocking a puck against New Jersey.

Another twist that the team didn't see coming:  Semyon Varlamov's struggles so far this season.  The young goalie -- still with more playoff starts than regular season appearances -- has given up eight goals in less than two full games, getting yanked in his second start and hasn't been inserted back into the lineup since.

But that's ok so far, as Jose Theodore, like a roller coaster will sometimes do, stood on his head Tuesday night in the third period and overtime versus the Devils, salvaging a point in an Eastern Conference matchup.

And finally, there are the lines. Anytime you go to an amusement park, you expect to have to wait in long lines for your favorite ride. Last night was no exception.

Last year's season ticket holder party there were approximately 5,000 full seasons ticket holders that were invited to the party. This year that number almost tripled due to last season's success, playoff run, and the popularity of Ovechkin.

Just like a rollercoaster, everyone wants to get on the newest and fastest ride around.

So enjoy D.C.'s latest new thrill ride, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals.  It's fast, full of ups and downs, with plenty of twists and curves, and sometimes even flips upside down.  But it always makes you want to get right back on when it's over.

Mike Green (far right) scores his first goal of the season in 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey.
Photos © 2009 C. Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

"One bad shift in the third period," was how Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau described his team's effort in a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, who were completing a three-game road trip Monday night at a sold out Verizon Center.

It was Washington's fourth loss in a row, though they took two points from the four losses.

"I thought we were getting it in deep, we were doing all the right things and that one shift, they kept it in our zone for about a minute and everyone in the building and on the bench knew something bad was going to happen."

"Something bad" was David Clarkson's second goal of the season, scored at 13:34 of the third period.  Clarkson banged home a pass from Nicklas Bergfors from the slot after a sustained flurry of shots and pressure.  The Devils (3-2-0) had several opportunities during the possession, and the Caps had several chances to clear the puck, but could not.

The game followed a disturbing trend for the Capitals (2-2-2), as fairly dominant play in the first half of the game resulted in a 2-0 lead mid-way through the second period.  The Caps got goals from Mike Green -- his first of the season on his 24th birthday -- and Mike Knuble, who was moved to the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Ovechkin assisted on both goals, giving him 12 points in six games.

But the reworked second line of Brendan Morrison centering Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin were on the ice for both of New Jersey's regulation goals.  The first goal was as egregious as the second, as Semin was caught up ice and out of position.

The Devils then broke out on a 4-on-2 the other way, with Brian Rolston snapping a shot past Jose Theodore off a nice feed from Rob Neidermayer.

"I thought that [the Knuble line] played a solid game. I thought the other line struggled a little bit with the switch. ... We've got to find a switch that works for everybody," Boudreau said.

"It's not a frustration. It's more like an annoyance," Knuble said of the four-game skid. "We're doing all the things right, every game we've lost."

Theodore (27 saves) had a very strong game, especially late in the third period after the tying goal and in overtime, where the Caps were forced to kill a Morrison tripping call in OT.

"José was on top of his game again, but we just couldn't get that win for him," captain Chris Clark said.

Special teams was an issue again, as the Caps went 0-for-5 on the power play, including 53 seconds of five-on-three.  On the positive side, though, they did not allow a power play goal either in five tries.

In the shootout, Backstrom drew first blood, and Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner both answered for New Jersey.  Semin was stopped by Brodeur on the Caps second shot, and Ovechkin was denied on the final try, sending the frenzied crowd home empty.

To a man, the Caps all proclaimed that the season was still early.  But an extra point in October counts the same as it does in March.

09:06 Mike Green (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Knuble, Ovechkin
14:16 Mike Knuble (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Ovechkin

08:18 Brian Rolston (2), Snap Shot. Assist: Niedermayer, White

13:34 David Clarkson (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Bergfors, Zubrus


Nicklas Backstrom (1), GOAL
Zach Parise (2), GOAL
Jamie Langenbrunner (2), GOAL

1. D. Clarkson - NJ (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. M. Brodeur - NJ (Saves: 31, Save Pct: .939)
3. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)

Michael Nylander continues to sit for Washington as the organization tries to rectify his situation.

Clark fought with Clarkson in the first period.

The Caps out shot New Jersey 29-26.

CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 6: Devils Come Down to DC

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, October 12, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

New Jersey Devils (2-2-0, 4 pts, 4th in Atlantic Division)
Washington Capitals (2-2-1, 5 pts, 1st in Southeast Division)

The Devils have won back-to-back road games after starting the season 0-2 at home.  After dropping decisions to the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center, New Jersey bounced back with a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay and a 3-2 victory over Florida on Saturday, outshooting the Panthers 41-21.

New Jersey is struggling to score early on, notching just ten goals in four games.  Travis Zajac (3-2-5, -2) paces the Devils with goals in three straight games, while Zach Parise (1-3-4, -2) hasn't quite warmed up yet.   Rob Niedermayer has two goals already, and that ranks him second in goals for New Jersey.

Veteran Martin Brodeur has played all four contests for the Devils and has looked rusty as well, with a 3.22 goals against average and .890 save percentage.

Coach Jacques Lemaire liked what he saw from his troops in Florida.  "Overall, it's probably our best game from the first minute to the last," he said. "Through the whole game, we probably had one average shift."

Washington begins a three-game homestand, trying to break out of a glut of bad penalties, which has hurt the team in their three-game losing streak.  The team has allowed six power play goals during the streak, as a result of taking poor hooking and holding infractions.  The Capitals are the fourth most penalized team in the league.

The Caps gave up to power play markers to Detroit Saturday night in a 3-2 loss, with the game-winner coming with Mike Green in the box for hooking with 6:53 remaining in the third period.  Green has not scored this season, with just two assists to his credit, despite the Caps averaging four goals a game thus far.

Eric Fehr returned to the lineup Saturday against Detroit, and will again be on the left wing on the third line tonight.

Jose Theodore, off his most solid performance of the season in the loss to the Wings, gets the nod in goal again.  He is playing to a 2.90 GAA and .902 save percentage.



Nylander, Schultz, Sloan

WASGF:  T-2nd (20/4.00); GA: T-25th (18/3.60); PP:  12th (6/24, 25.0%); PK:  14th (6/27, 77.8%)
NJGF:  T-21st (10/2.50); GA:  T-17th (13/3.25); PP:  11th (5/19, 26.3%):  PK:  18th (4/17, 76.5%)

WAS:  F Tomas Fleischmann (leg-out)
NJ:  LW Patrick Elias (hip, groin, IR), D Mark Fraser (upper body, IR)