Caps Claim Sturm off Waivers; Other Roster Updates

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, February 26, 2011 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

Earlier today, the Washington Capitals claimed veteran winger Marco Sturm off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.  The speedy, defensively responsible Sturm recently returned to action after missing a good chunk of the season with a knee injury. 

He has four goals and five assists in 17 games played for the Kings this season.

Sturm, 32, is a 13 year NHL veteran of three teams, and has been a consistent mid-20s goal scorer throughout his career.  He brings 52 games worth of playoff experience to the Capitals as well.

F D.J. King was placed on waivers to make room on the roster for Sturm.  If he clears waivers, he should report to AHL Hershey.

The Caps also recalled F Jay Beagle for tonight's game with the New York Islanders and have sent C Mathieu Perreault to Hershey,according to Mike Vogel of

In that same update, Vogel reported that G Semyon Varlamov, who was scheduled to start tonight, was injured in pre-game skate and Michal Neuvirth will take his place.  Todd Ford will be recalled from AHL Hershey and make his NHL debut backing up Neuvirth tonight.

This move could be a pre-cursor to a flurry of activity before Monday's trade deadline.  Sturm presents a cap hit of about $810,000 (pro-rated), and GM George McPhee might have to do some rearranging of the deck chairs to make a significant move.

One possibility is placing D Tom Poti, out since mid-January, on the Long Term Injured List, freeing some space to maneuver.

Regardless, McPhee figures to be one of the busier GMs between now and Monday.  Friday night's debacle against the New York Rangers couldn't have left anyone in the organization with any confidence in the Caps fleeting hopes of securing a fourth straight Southeast Division banner.

Vogel also reported that Mike Green was placed on the "non-roster" list today so that he could attend his grandmother's funeral and that Geren has already departed for Calgary.

GAME 62 RE-CAP: No Escape From New York

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, February 26, 2011 | , , , , | 0 comments »

"The worst home loss I've been associated with." Coach Bruce Boudreau.

THE RESULT:  Just as in their last meeting between these two teams, the New York Rangers dominated the Washington Capitals in all facets of the game and handed the home team its worst loss in its own building since November of 2006, a 6-0 shutout that wasn't even as close as the score.

The Caps essentially gave up on this game just moments before the Rangers first tally at 5:45 of the first period.

The Rangers had control of the puck and were cycling effectively against the Mike Green/John Erskine pairing, and a forward line of Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Boyd Gordon.  The puck came behind the net and Green clearly cross-checked Derek Stepan and the Rangers rookie went into the boards helmet first.

Green dug the puck out to Gordon, but Gordon was unable to clear and the Rangers defensemen fed the puck back into the same corner where Green went to retrieve, rather timidly, I might add.  Stepan, angry from the cross-check and probably frustrated with the no-call, checked Green high and hit Green with a shoulder or elbow.

Green went down in a pile and was very slow to get up.  At that point, with the Caps down a man, the Rangers collected the puck and fed a wide open Steve Eminger at the far point, who sent a blast that ricocheted off Brooks Laich and past Michal Neuvirth for the only goal the Rangers would need.

Green left the game and did not return. The team has listed him as "day-to-day" at this point pending further evaluation and he will not accompany the team to Long island for the game with the Islanders Saturday. Green was making his return after missing the road trip battling "inner ear trauma" stemming from taking a puck to the side of the head against Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

He managed to last just 5:45 into the first period.

If you watched the video, pause it at the 23 second mark, right after the goal and look at the reaction the five Caps players in the frame had. It's all you need to know about how the rest of the game went.

The Capitals were already defeated.  I won't bore you with descriptions of the rest of New York's goals.

"Our fans deserve better," a subdued coach Bruce Boudreau said in his press conference.  "We deserve to get booed. It’s not fun when you come home and you’ve got the best fans in the world and you play like that."

"It’s just not acceptable and it’s embarrassing."

But it's all too common-place now for this team.

It's almost impossible to fathom, but the Caps have lost their last three games at Verizon Center by a combined score of 12-1.  Boudreau's right about it being embarrassing.

And with just 20 games left in the regular season, can anything be done about it?

The team pulled six points from a long five-game road trip, came home to two days off, and then went out and laid a stinker like that last night at home?  There are no excuses for the level of effort and energy exhibited by the vast majority of players wearing a red sweater last night.

With the trade deadline approaching on Monday, it's impossible to guess what GM George McPhee might do.  But you can be sure that he was not pleased with the performance of the players that are currently on the roster.

He'd be just one of many at this point.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday against the New York Islanders from Nassau County Coloseum at 7:00 pm.


3. John Erskine.  Five hits and only on the ice for the goal where Green got hurt.
2. Scott Hannan.  He's an anchor for the Caps on the blue line.  Second most minutes and was on the ice for just one of the four even strength goals for New York.
1. Alex Ovechkin.  Eight shots on goal, another nine blocked or missed.  Six hits.  Was really involved in this game.

CAPS NOTES:  John Carlson and Karl Alzner did not distinguish themselves last night.  Carlson was minus-3 and Alzner minus-2.

Speaking of bad games, Boyd Gordon was on the ice for the first four Rangers goals.

Alexander Semin somehow was credited with four hits.

Nick Backstrom, healing from a fracture in his thumb, took just one faceoff all night. The Caps finished at 51 percent for the evening.

The power play went 0-for-5 and penalty kill was just 2-for-4.

Hendy Re-Signs: Winners and Losers

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | , , , , , | 0 comments »

Forward Matt Hendricks signed a two-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals today, worth a reported $1.6 million.  We evaluate the winners and losers!


Matt Hendricks, obviously.  The two-year extension finally gives the 29-year old something he's never had in his playing career: stability.

GM George McPhee.  He locks up a player that has become part of the heart and soul of this team, and signals to the rest of the organization that hard work can and will pay off if you perform on a nightly basis.

Caps Fans.  You can all run out and get your #26 shirseys now!


Matt Hendricks.  He will now have to continue to get pounded every other night, a skill he picked up later in life in order to prolong his career and make him more valuable to a playoff team's thrid or fourth line.

Matt Bradley.  Essentially, McPhee just locked Hendricks up to provide the same skill set Bradley -- a more expensive and three years older player --  performs.

D.J. King.  The Capitals are proving that they don't need a heavyweight on this team as constructed.  It's just not that much part of the game anymore.

Jim Kerr of Edmonton's iNews 880 asked if I would be gracious enough to answer a couple questions about Alex Ovechkin, the season he's had thus far, the Washington Capitals struggle on the power play, and Ovi's leadership in the locker room.

Essentially, he wanted to know "What's Wrong with Ovi?"

Here's a snippet: 
Dave Nichols with the Capitals News Network says a number of things come into play when talking about Ovechkin’s “sub-par” numbers this year: a possible wrist injury, a predictable attack, a struggling power play or even the lingering sting of a fruitless 2009-10 season, for example.

“My personal theory is that with all the disappointment from last season - the early playoff exit, the suspensions, the failure of the Russian team at the Olympics - he's changed his game, whether he's doing it consciously or subconsciously,” explains Nichols. “He just isn't playing with the same flair and excitement from years past.”

“The team's struggles this season have really frustrated him because all he wants to do is bring the Stanley Cup to Washington.”
Thanks to Mr. Kerr for soliciting our opinion.  If someone in Edmonton wants your opinion about hockey, you gotta be doing something right.  Right?

"He was pretty good." Coach Bruce Boudreau stating the obvious about his goalie.

The Washington Capitals are starting to serve notice.

In front of another national television audience, the team that was the highest scoring squad in the league last season showed their new commitment to playing a more defensively sound game. 

For the third time on a now-concluded five-game road trip, the Caps secured a victory in a one-goal game by shutting out their arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins (or what's left of them), 1-0, before a large, but not capacity crowd at Consol Energy Center.

Washington improves to 10-0-2 in the last 12 regular season games against Pittsburgh, winners of their last seven games in the Steel City.

The win gives the Caps 74 points, good for a five point lead over Montreal for fifth in the Eastern Conference, and trail Tampa Bay by just one point for the Southeast Division lead, though the Lightning have two games in hand over the Caps.

These six points -- on a very difficult road trip -- were crucial for the Caps, as Tampa Bay's 12-game homestand draws to a close.  If the Caps have any chance of defending their division crown, they needed to produce on the road while Tampa struggles, losers of four of their last seven and three in a row -- all at home.

Michal Neuvirth, who was maligned by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on the HBO program 24/7, showed once again the promise this 22-year old goaltender has when he's confident.  Neuvirth let up very few rebounds, especially on long shots where Pittsburgh was looking to storm the net looking for change.  He made a total of 39 saves, 14 in the tense third period.

It was Neuvirth's second consecutive shut out over the Penguins, his third this season overall.

Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked when he felt confident with Neuvirth in net last night.  "Early in the game, when they were coming at us really hard, and [Neuvirth] wasn't allowing any rebounds -- when he can corral them and smothers them like he's got velcro on him -- that's when I know Michal's on top of his game."

As is usually the case, Washington was led offensively by Alex Ovechkin, who notched his 24th goal of the season.  But perhaps more importantly, the Caps leader in "heart" last night was Matt Bradley, who played his best game of the season.

Bradley's mission, from his first shift, was to punish Penguins winger Matt Cooke, and he did his job in no uncertain terms.  In the teams' last meeting, Super Bowl Sunday, Cooke took a run at Ovechkin, landing a dangerous knee-on-knee hit, which stunned the Russian Machine, leading to both Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom getting shots in at Cooke.

After serving his penalty, Cooke was challenged by Bradley and Cooke declined, as is his nature.

But last night, Bradley would not take "no" for an answer.  In the first period, the scrappy winger delivered a cross-check to Cooke's lower back, knocking the pest to the ice.  In the second period, of an increasingly gritty game, Bradley delivered a big blow to Cooke, who had his head down in the corner after digging out a puck.

Bradley was called for a charge on a play both Versus Network studio commentators, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury, called clean.

Bradley later threw hands with Penguins rookie Ryan Craig, as Craig felt the need to defend Cooke's honor, as Cooke wasn't man enough to do the job himself.

Boudreau praised Bradley's performance.  "I thought he had a tremendous game.  He did things that energy guys on the fourth line are supposed to do."

"He did great things out there."

The fight came a few minutes after Bruce Boudreau called time out early in the second, with his team looking a little haggard in their own end to start the frame.  It was perfect timing from a coach that has received much criticism this season as he implements a more defensively responsible system.

There have been a lot of growing pains, and it's certainly debatable whether the system change was really necessary in the first place.  For all the talk about "playoff hockey", three of the final four teams in last season's playoffs were in the Top 8 in the league in scoring last season.

But Boudreau and GM George McPhee obviously think that the changes are required to succeed this season, and the Caps players are starting to look like they've adjusted to the system.  Twice in the third period, milking a 1-0 lead, Capitals forwards were in their own crease blocking and covering pucks, including Ovechkin and Backstrom.

The Capitals management is staking their reputation -- and perhaps their playoff chances -- on the change in philosophy.  Whether they can generate enough offense while maintaining their defensive presence is still up for debate. 

If McPhee can pull a second-line center out of his hat at the trade deadline, it would go a long way in taking the pressure off the first line and allow Marcus Johansson -- who made a terrific pass on Ovechkin's goal, but also was pushed off the puck too many times to mention in tight quarters -- to center the third line where he can be more effective on defense without having the added pressure of centering a scoring line right now.

Regardless, get used to these one-goal games.  It's "playoff hockey" from here on out.

NEXT GAME:  The Caps are off until Friday, when they host the struggling New York Rangers (2-7-1 in their last 10 games) at 7:00 pm from Verizon Center.


3. Alex Ovechkin.  His goal was an absolute BOMB from the high slot, and a power play marker to boot!
2. Matt Bradley.  Did the hero's work.
1. Michal Neuvirth.  Didn't need to be spectacular last night, but that's part of his game -- always being in the right spot.  Held onto all the long shots, controlled what few rebounds there were, and made a couple nifty grabs with the glove.

***Post-game quotes courtesy Caps365 on

"We had to persevere if we were to succeed." Coach Bruce Boudreau on tough 2-1 win over Buffalo.

THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals have been getting outscored lately in the third period of games, but they reversed that trend Sunday afternoon, as a late tally broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Caps a road victory over the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1 before 18,690 in HSBC Arena and an NBC national television audience.

The Capitals have entered the third period tied in four of their last six games, losing each of the three contests.  Courtesy of a solid -- if unspectacular -- effort this afternoon, a familiar story had a much happier ending.

"We talked about, going into the third, that we had to have the will to persevere and and the confidence to do it," Boudreau said when asked if the effort in the third period was a confidence boost for his team.  "I thought they dug deep and they blocked shots and did what they had to do tonight.  It was a hard-earned two points."

With the win, Washington inches to within three points of division-leading Tampa Bay.

Marcus Johansson deflected a Mathieu Perreault shot midway through the third period to lift the Caps past a struggling Buffalo squad.  Not only was it the game-winner, but it was also a power play marker, a precious asset the Caps just haven't had enough of this season.

Alex Ovechkin set up the goal, driving down the right wing drawing much of the Buffalo defense.  He got off a shot that Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller brushed aside with his blocker, but the rebound went straight to Perreault, who lifted a shot back at the cage.  Johansson, crashing the crease, tipped the puck as it went by and into the net.

Perreault also scored the first Caps goal in the second period, banging home a bad bounce off the boards past an out-of-position Miller (37 saves).

The late goal made for a happy ending.  But for much of the game, the Caps were following a all-too familiar script: not taking advantage of opportunities.

Washington went 0-for-4 on the power play in the first period, including 1:34 of 5-on-3 time.  They outshot Buffalo 16-8 in the first, including nine shots with the man advantage, but could not solve Miller.  On one particular save, Miller was down and Nick Backstrom had him dead to rights, but shot the puck directly into Miller's outstretched left pad for the save.

It's a play we've seen Backstrom bury countless times in his tenure, but just goes on a long list of missed opportunities this season for the young center.

Regardless, the two young pivots came through for the Caps today, once again showing glimpses of the potential both possess.  There will be a lot of talk with the upcoming trade deadline approaching about the Caps needing a quality, veteran second line center, and that talk is legitimate.  It's been an weakness of the Caps all season long.

We've seen flashes of brilliance from both Perreault and Johansson, but for all too brief periods.  The production over the long season just hasn't been there.

But for one afternoon, it was good enough.

So the Caps have taken four points through four games on this grueling five-game road trip.  A win in Pittsburgh on Monday would have to qualify the trip a huge success.

With the trade dealine looming so near, it's time to find out who these Washington Capitals really are.


3. Alexander Semin.  Gets the nod on the strength of one play, clearing the puck from the crease in scramble late in the game.  I think I've now seen everything.
2. Semyon Varlamov.  28 saves on 29 shots.  Solid positioning, only goal came on a screened shot on a power play.
1. Mathieu Perreault.  In the right place twice, scoring and getting the primary assist on Johansson's tip-in. We'll overlook his careless stick foul.