Green Suspended for Elbowing Penalty

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, January 30, 2010 | , | 0 comments »

According to Capitals Insider, Mike Green has been suspended three games for his minor elbowing penalty in last night's game against Florida.  It's a pretty outrageous outcome for a foul that didn't cause injury, especially with some of the most recent fouls that are not warrenting suspension.

More information as we get it.

GAME 54 REVIEW: Nine In a Row as Caps Down Cats 4-1

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, January 30, 2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »

In an almost carbon copy of Wednesday night's win, the Washington Capitals turned a close game through the first two periods with the Florida Panthers into a run-away victory, scoring twice in the third period to pull away and win their ninth straight game, 4-1, before a raucous sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

The nine game win streak is just one short of the team record, set in 1983-84.

Mike Knuble scored twice, Nick Backstrom once, and Jeff Schultz broke a 40-game drought with a wrist shot from the point.  With Schultz' goal, the longest scoring drought on the team now belongs to Boyd Gordon, at a lengthy nine games.

Everyone held their collective breath, however, when Mike Green took an incidental knee-on-knee hit from Dmitry Kulikov as Green tried to slip a hit from the defender.  Green laid on the ice for several minutes while getting attention from team trainers, who helped the league's leading scoring defenseman from the ice and into the dressing room.

Green would try to return later in the game, including taking a quick loop during a TV timeout.  But coach Bruce Boudreau and the training staff decided to hold him out.

The injury does not appear to be serious, but Green was walking with a limp in the hallway under Verizon Center after the game.

Boudreau seemed optimistic that Green would play on Sunday against Tampa Bay.  "I assume he'll be playing Sunday. He came out there, as you saw, and he felt fine. But we didn't want to take any chances. It was more of a charley horse than anything else."

"We'll see," said Green, among a throng of media after the game. "I can't really tell right now. It's not serious, but we'll see."

Florida obviously decided that being physical would be an important part of this game, and their hitting was noticiably increased.  The were very effective taking the body, especially early, keeping the Caps bottled up...until they broke out.

Green took an elbowing penalty in the first after a particularly big hit by Cory Stillman.

"Tonight it seemed like they were playing solid defense and taking the body," Green said.  "A little different than what we're used to from them."

For the first two periods, the Caps appeared a little sluggish, letting the physical play come to them a bit -- though still getting their shots off.  Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun was strong though, appearing to have good confidence and control. 

The Caps did score first.  Knuble made a strong run to the net, and Backstrom tipped it past Vokoun.  Washington held a 1-0 lead after one.

But Vokoun was the early hero, making save after save against the league's most powerful offense.

Florida tied it up early in the second, with Stephen Weiss making good on a nice feed from Cory Stillman.

But the Caps would not be denied.  Just 25 seconds later, the first line all crashed the net, with Alex Ovechkin, Backstrom and Knuble all inside 10 feet of the crease.  Backstrom fed Ovie, who shot, and the puck careened off Knuble's skate for the goal.

The Caps just steamrolled Florida in the third.  Schultz' goal was aided by a screen from Brooks Laich, and Knuble got a bit of a knuckleball past Vokoun for the clincher.

Knuble remarked about the team's performance in the third periods during the winning streak.  "We were just playing with so much confidence in the third.  We know if it's close going into the third, we just kinda rally around and get things going."

And with all of the offensive highlights, it's easy to look past the other aspects of the game.  But once again the team did not allow a power play goal, and goalie Michal Neuvirth (35 saves) was strong between the pipes.

"We gave up way too many chances, but Neuvirth was outstanding," Boudreau said of his rookie netminder.  "When you have good goaltending, sometimes you [cover] your mistakes."

So on Sunday, this Caps team will attempt to tie the franchise record winning streak.  Boudreau said the historical aspect hasn't sunk in for him or the team.  "It's great, and it'll sink in later, as did six-game winning streaks.  It'll be nice if it happens, but it's not our goal."

Boudreau left that goal unstated, but it was apparent to everyone in the room, and certainly understood by everyone in attendance, what Boudreau's ultimate goal for this team really is.

In a two and a half minute span in the third period, the Washington Capitals turned a tense game into another blowout, this time defeating the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 at sold-out -- but not quite filled -- Verizon Center.

It's the Caps' eighth win in a row, their longest such streak in 26 years.  It's also 11 out of 12 since Alex Ovechkin was named captain.

The scoring started early in this one, just 36 seconds in, as Ovechkin banged home a tip pass from Mike Knuble off a shot from the point from Mike Green.

But for the rest of the first period and all of the second, Anaheim goalie J. S. Giguere proved up to the task, making save after save on some pretty good scoring chances from the league's leading offense.

In fact, after Duck forward Dan Sexton put back a rebound to knot the game at one in the second period, there were some definite uneasy feelings among the faithful.

There was a flurry at the end of the second, where Giguere robbed Alexander Semin at point blank twice in minute.  There have been games where the Caps might have folded at that point, figuring it just wasn't their night.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was concerned as well.  "It might be one of these nights that happens," he said.  "But at the same time, he hadn't played in a long time [Giguere's last start was Jan. 3] and if we keep pressuring him he might tire a little bit in the third period."

"I don't know if [Giguere] did or not, but the wind went out of his sails, I think, after we got the third [goal]."

The sequence of events Boudreau alluded to was an onslaught of shots in a two and a half minute period that changed the complection of the game.

Just 1:45 into the third, Shaone Morrisonn sent a soft wrist shot toward the goal, that deflected off a Duck defenseman's skate and between Giguere's pads to break the tie.  It was Morrisonn's first goal of the season.

That follows John Erskine's drought-breaking goal last night against the Islanders.

Less than a minute later, Ovechkin fed a cutting Mike Knuble, who soccer kicked the puck to his stick to beat Giguere on a two-on-one.

Semin then got his revenge on Giguere -- in spades.

First, he took a long breakout pass form Brooks Laich at the blue line, skated in alone, deked with the forehand, then flipped a backhander over Giguere for his 24th goal of the season.  It was a classic "goal scorer's goal".

Later, on a five-on-three power play, Nicklas Backstrom saucered a feed across the goal mouth to a waiting Semin just outside the circle, and Semin buried it top shelf, hitting Giguere's water bottle and making it squirt onto the ice.

After that, things got a little testy, and Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle probably wished he hadn't scratched enforcer George Parros for the contest.

Eric Fehr took a poke at Giguere after a save, drawing the ire of Anaheim's Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.  All five skaters for each team ended up behind the Anaheim goal line, and in the scrum Fehr, Tom Poti, Perry and Getzlaf all received four minutes for roughing.

Lost in the fireworks was another quality performance from goalie Michal Neuvirth.  Neuvirth was pressed into duty due to Jose Theodore's day-to-day lower body injury, and he was up to the task.  He stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced, and had no chance on the one he did let up.

The Anaheim goal was really the product of a bad shift by just about everyone on the ice.  Other than that though, the young netminder showed good movement and excellent rebound control, forcing faceoffs by holding the puck instead of letting it bounce into harm's way. 

Boudreau was pleased with his youngster's play.  "I thought he was really good.  I thought he controlled everything, smothered it and we ended up getting a lot of faceoffs in our zone."

"We're one of the better faceoff teams so when you have that it's to our advantage."

Defenseman Brian Pothier was effusive in his praise of his goalie.  "Neuvy is a special kid.  He's really talented, he's real calm, real confident.  Early in the game you need your goalie to make some big saves for you.  If they score a quick one in the's a different game."

So the juggernaut keeps rolling.  Eight wins in a row.  Eleven out of twelve.  62 goals in that span.  Someone's got to be the best team in hockey, and it might as well be these Capitals.  At least, for the last couple of weeks it has been.

Washington leads the league with an average of 3.83 goals per game on the season, the most goals per game in the league since 1995-96.

Are we watching a team that's just red-hot right now playing out of their minds, only to return to earth at some point?  Or are we watching a team finally fulfilling all of the expectations that have been heaped and hyped on them since they selected Alex Ovechkin in the draft.

Is today "some day"?

Pothier might have the last word on the subject.  He was asked after the game if this a team just hitting on all cylinders, or does this particular team have more to give?

After pausing a moment to gather his thoughts, he said, "It's nice that when Ovie and Greenie and these guys don't score a ton of goals, that we can still put seven in the net [against the Islanders].  Tonight we get help from guys like Shaone Morrisonn--guys you don't necessarily think of as goal scorers."

"It's a well-rounded team and everyone's playing really well.  It's nice when everyone's playing with confidence and we end up scoring a lot of goals, cause we have some pretty special players."

The Washington Capitals scored seven goals last night for their seventh straight victory, defeating the New York Islanders 7-2.

The remarkable thing is that with all that scoring, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green were held off the scoresheet.

Alexander Semin scored two unassisted goals, giving him 23 on the season.  And of all people, John Erskine had a two point night, with a goal and an assist.  The Caps also got goals from Brendan Morrison (11), Mike Knuble (15), Jason Chimera (11) and Brooks Laich (14).  And Eric Fehr added two assists.

Erskine ended a 109-game scoring drought, dating back to Jan. 19, 2008.

"I don't get them too often, so I wasn't even sure what to do when it went in," Erskine said.

But there was bad news, on both sides of the ice.

First, the Caps' streak of penalty kills was broken at 14 straight, as Rob Schremp tallied in the first on the power play for the Islanders.  It was little solace for New York, as starting goalie, 40-year old Dwayne Roloson gave up four goals on 12 shots.

Backup Rick DiPietro, who has missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, didn't fare much better, giving up three goals on 21 shots, including Erskine's goal that snuck through his pads.

"It was just a bad game all around," DiPietro said. "When we don't play our game, things like that happen."

New York lost D Jack Hillen in the first period, after he was struck in the face by an Ovechkin slapshot.  Blood pooled on the ice where Hillen laid after taking the brunt of the shot.  He was assisted my medical staff, but eschewed a stretcher and left the ice under his own power.  Both benches acknowledged his toughness, tapping their sticks on the ice in hockey's ultimate show of respect.

"I was worried for the young man," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You could see all of our guys went over to see if he was OK, too -- Alex being the first guy. Everybody on our bench was standing up when he got up, as well as their guys.

The Caps have their own injury to worry about though.  Goalie Jose Theodore did not return to the ice after the second period, and was even absent from the bench in the third period, with what the team is describing as a day-to-day lower body injury at this point.

Michal Neuvirth came on in relief and stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period.

This morning, the Caps recalled Braden Holtby from AHL Hershey, and sent D Karl Alzner back down to make room on the roster for the young netminder.  Holtby is 15-2-1 with an AHL-leading 1.82 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

The Caps turn right around and host Anaheim tonight at Verizon Center.  The Ducks are 3-8-0 on the road since Dec. 23, scoring two or fewer goals in seven of those contests.  They are also 0-for-12 on the power play in their last three games.

The Caps record is now 34-12-6-74 and have won nine of their last ten games.  They are first in the Eastern Conference by five points over New Jersey.  Anaheim is 24-22-7-55, fifth in the Pacific Division, but are 7-3-0 in their last ten.

1.  Alexander Semin (G: 2, A: 0)
2.  John Erskine  (G: 1, A:1)
3.  Jason Chimera  (G: 1, A: 1)

Photo Gallery from Caps Win over Phoenix

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, January 25, 2010 | , | 0 comments »

Here are a few shots from Saturday night's 4-2 win over the Coyotes.  Apparently, the Coyotes went out for a few shots themselves the next day.

Anyway, hope you enjoy these from staff photographer Cheryl.

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

From Coyotes v. Caps, 1/23/2010

And here's the entire slideshow, if you're so inclined. More good stuff in here as well. Enjoy!

GAME 51 REVIEW: PK Strong Again As Caps Hold Off Pheonix 4-2

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, January 24, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

When your undisputed leader and captain is Alexander Ovechkin, your team is going to be known for its offensive prowess.  And rightly so.  For the ninth time in 10 games the Washington Capitals scored at least four goals, beating the upstart Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at sold-out and loud Verizon Center.

But quietly, the Caps defense and special teams have been getting the job done.  They killed off all five Phoenix power plays -- including one late in the third period -- and went two-for-seven on the power play themselves.

Alexander Semin had another excellent game, figuring in all four scores with a goal and three assists.  His goal was another things of beauty, as he took a pass from behind the crease and lifted it over Ilya Bryzgalov's left shoulder into the top corner of the net. 

The shot resembled a game the Caps play toward the end of practice on occasion, where they take two hockey sticks and thread the shafts through the net, creating two triangles in the upper corners of the net. 

Semin's shot tonight went into a triangle smaller than what they get in practice.

He also made several excellent passes to set up his teammates.

"He's so skilled," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's one of the few people that I know of ... that can pass it from one side of the ice to the other side in the air and it lands flat all the time. It never bounces."

But back to the penalty kill.  Referee Bill McCreary insinuated himself into the game tonight, calling a total of 14 infractions, and the Caps needed to be sharp a man down.  They even had a five-on-three at one point they successfully killed off as well.

The Capitals have now killed off the last 14 power plays against, covering their last four games.

Forward Eric Fehr, who had a goal and assist, spoke about the penalty kill. "It was huge for us. At the end, the last couple of minutes there, they were making some big stops and that's what we needed to keep going tonight."

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn pointed out some reasons why the kill has been so effective lately. 

"Guys were getting pretty disappointed the way it had been.  We know that it can win us games and we're taking a little more pride in it, doing the little things; blocks, getting it deep, and going over a lot of video and just keep working on it."

As for the power play, Washington leads the NHL at 26 percent, and have made good on 44.4 percent in their last eight games.

Goalie Michael Neuvirth got the call in goal, in a move that surprised the 21-year old netminder, but something Boudreau had planned last week.

"I wasn't really feeling very good before the game, and I didn't really expect to play because [Theodore] was playing really good now," said Neuvirth, who had been pulled in each of his last two starts. "I was shaky at first, but I settled down and just played my game."

"I thought he played really good," Boudreau said. "I thought he was a little nervous at the beginning of the game. He really smothered pucks in the third period and allowed our centermen to win a lot of face-offs so we could get line changes and weren't caught out there too long. That was a real big factor."

Thus ends a pretty big week for the Capitals.  In the space of seven days they've won four games total, over both of last year's Stanley Cup finals teams, an arch rival, and a hot upstart. 

Boudreau remarked last week how these four games would be a litmus test for this team, a measuring stick for getting to where they want to be as a franchise.

Well, this team has now won six straight games, and nine of their last 10.  Their record sits at 33-12-6-72, first place in the Eastern Conference by three points over New Jersey.

I'd say if the last week was a test, they passed with flying colors.

There's no practice Sunday, a day of rest for a team that had a rough, but successful and fulfilling week.

Notes:  Brooks Laich scored on the power play, and Ovechkin added his 34th of the season, an empty netter on a pretty lob feed from Semin, to seal the deal.  The Caps now have eight players with 14 or more goals on the season.