The Shootout Returns to Washington

Florida 2 - Washington 1 F-SO

One of the things most people made note of upon Viktor Kozlov's signing with the Caps was his proficiency in the shootout. Tonight, he was exactly as good as advertised. Sadly, so were the rest of his teammates. Once again, the Caps didn't do anything particularly badly (aside from a couple of bad penalties at the start of the game), but they also didn't do anything well enough to come away with two points. This is getting sort of repetitive, no?

  • I hate to trot out the tried-and-true "hot goalie" cliche, but Thomas Vokoun was on fire tonight. His save on Alex Ovechkin's power-play one-timer at the end of OT had me shaking my head in disbelief.
  • At the other end, Olie Kolzig was equally brilliant. He is in a zone right now. If only someone could find a way to close up his five-hole during shootouts...
  • Dave Steckel had a very good, if very frustrating, night. Chris Clark's goal came immediately after Steckel hustled to the corner to beat out an icing call despite being at the end of his shift. (I could note that, had he failed to beat out the icing, he would have been forced to go back for a defensive zone draw, since there are no line changes for the team that ices the puck, so that maybe it wasn't so much heroism as self-preservation. But I won't.) He also managed to create some quality scoring chances. If he could find a way to get the puck more than an inch off of the ice, the Capitals probably skate away with a regulation win tonight.
  • Both Clark and Alexander Semin were both absent from the bench during OT and the shootout. Which is foreboding, to say the least. Anybody think the Caps' chances would've improved if they could've trotted Semin out during the shootout?
  • The AP report lists the announced attendance as 10, 526, the second lowest of the season. If the actual number of butts in seats was even two thirds that, I'll eat my hat.
  • Speaking of hats, classy move by Brent Johnson, wearing the Burgundy and Gold on the bench in place of his usual RWB.
  • If I told you that both goaltenders in tonight's game had 2.85 GAAs, would you believe me? Not to mention the fact that their respective save percentages are seperated by just .009. Methinks the Caps might considering scoring a little more often.
  • Ovechkin's point streak ends at nine games. Here's hoping he starts another such streak Friday night.
Next up is Friday night in Raleigh against the Hurricanes.


So That's Why They Call It a 'Power' Play

Washington 5 - Carolina 2

If you think back to the long long ago, the before time, you may remember a Washington Capitals team that, under Glen Hanlon, would regularly come out of the locker room and dominate the first few minutes of the game, only to give up a goal on their opponent's first shot. They would then proceed to fall behind over the course of the next two periods, leading up to a frantic third period in which their valiant comeback attempt would fall just short.Last night, they completely flipped that script.

  • Olie Kolzig was absolutely brilliant in the first half of the second period, standing on his head several times to keep the Caps in it early until they could finally start generating some offense.
  • The Caps' power play failed to score on all but three of their four chances. It makes Hanlon's insistence on keeping Alex Ovechkin on the point in lieu of Mike Green all the more baffling.
  • Speaking of Alex Ovechkin, he appears to have shaved. It is a testament to his consistent excellence that I consider this more notable than his two-goal night. Don't look now, but Ovechkin is now in a five-way tie for second in the league in goal scoring.
  • Speaking of Mike Green, stop taking stupid penalties Mike Green!
  • Erik Cole certainly made Milan Jurcina and John Erskine look rather silly, didn't he?
  • If I'm going to complain about poor officiating after Caps' losses, it's only fair I point out that tonight's referees made some questionable calls in the Caps' favor, with the phantom tripping call on Matt Cullen behind the net being the most notable. It's always interesting to see the referee with a better vantage point decide not to call a penalty, only to have the trail official throw his arm in the air.
I think the general mood is pretty well summed up by this excerpt from the AP recap of the game: "'I can't tell you,' Michael Nylander said with a smile. 'Seriously, I can't say anything.'" Yes, you read that right, Michael Nylander does, in fact, have the appropriate facial muscles to achieve a smile, and last night, he had every reason to use them.

On a completely unrelated note, if you were looking for a reason to become irratinally angry at someone today, read this. Countdown to enraged reaction throughout the Caps' blogosphere in 3...2...1...


All He Does Is Score Goals: Part IV

Washington 4 - Philadelphia 3 F/OT

I didn't see the game today, so I'll keep things simple, as I'm basing my whole recap on the box score.

  • Good - Opening up a three goal lead. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I would guess that today was only the second or third time the Caps have had a lead that big at any point in a game.
  • Bad - Blowing a three goal lead.
  • Good - Not giving up after blowing a three goal lead. This is especially encouraging, as this is a team that packed it in after blowing a one goal lead in the 2nd period on Wednesday.
  • Especially good - Donald Brashear. All he does is score goals.

This is only the second time all season that the Capitals have managed a win when allowing their opponent to score more than one goal. They had previously been 1-14-1 in such games.

Hanlon 'Relieved' and So Am I

Yesterday, as you probably know by now, Capitals' GM George McPhee gave every Capitals fan something to be thankful during America's Thanksgiving, as Glen Hanlon was relieved of his duties as head coach. I recieved the news via a brief text message from my brother, and I will admit that m excitement was tempered slightly when I called him up only to find out that the team had replaced Hanlon with the team's third consecutive head coach with no previous NHL experience.

A day later, and I am decidedly less sour about the decision to install Hershey bench boss Bruce Boudreau, whose name I will have to learn to spell correctly. By all accounts, he is a more offense-oriented coach than Hanlon, which is exactly what this team needs right now. My biggest complaint about Hanlon was his insistence on playing too much of a defense-centric style despite a roster stacked mostly with explosive offensive stars. Hopefully, we can expect to see a team that, through the first quarter of the season has been, and I'm being generous here, altogether inept on offense turn things around and start scoring some goals. If not, I'm willing to give George McPhee the benefit of the doubt and assume that Boudreau's interim tag actually means "interim" instead of "if he has anything resembling success we will remove this tag so we don't have to go out and find a real head coach".

Should the team continue to underperform, the focus shifts now exclusively to George McPhee. While there are some who have been calling for his head for years, I genuinely belive that he has done a pretty good job with what he has had to work with. He spent a large part of his tenure with this team handcuffed by an owner who, at the time, was looking to become a slightly more portly version of Daniel Snyder, and we are only just now starting to see what he can do when left mostly to his own devices. His drafting has been very good of late, albeit this is due in part to the bevy of high first rounders like Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alzner. His moves during this past off season were, in theory at least, exactly what the team needed. The only way I see McPhee departing at the end of the season is if the team continues to perform as miserably as they have through the first twenty-one games and finishes in the basement yet again. Even then, though, I think he deserves at least one more season after this to finally give some of his draft picks to really gel (I'm looking at you, Karl Alzner) and free agents to finally acclimate themselves. That said, I'm still naming him the interim KHFC Whipping Boy for the time being, if only because I have no one else to pick on with Hanlon gone.

Game one of the B^2 era starts this afternoon in Philly. I won't be able to watch the game, as I have work today, but I will be checking the score obsessively when I should be doing my job. Here's hoping that the team can finally start to turn the corner.


My Feelings About Last Night's Game

Tampa Bay 5 - Washington 2



Caps' Offense Remains Mystifying

Can we officially declare that the Caps simply aren't a very good team right now? After an ugly, sloppy, painful to watch 2-1 loss to a Florida Panthers team that is pretty awful in it's own right, that is about the only conclusion I can come to. Let's move on to the quick hits:

  • 7:30 PM start times really suck. Not as bad as 8:00 start times, but still pretty awful. More awful than that? The Caps' power play, which still features approximately no Mike Green whatsoever.
  • Remember a week and a half ago, when the Caps beat the best team in the conference and had their best overall performance by employing an effective cycle in the offensive zone? Per Joe B. and Locker, Glen Hanlon tonight specifically wanted the Caps NOT to cycle the puck but to "funnel" the puck. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
  • Actually, I am saying. For the love of god, fire Hanlon.
  • Please?
  • In Hanlon's defense, Viktor Kozlov was, once again, mostly silent. Is it too early to declare his signing a bust and start praying for stem-cell research to cure Eric Fehr's wonky back?
  • It would also be nice if someone could find a cure for Tom Poti's inexplicable desire to never be in position along the blue line to keep the puck in, while we're talking about mostly useless free agents. Seriously, coach... Mike. Green.
  • You know who didn't play particularly well tonight? Thomas Vokoun. You know who made him look like he was? Every single player on the Capitals' team. What is so difficult about finishing off a scoring chance? Isn't this why the team traded away Dainius Zubrus?
  • Chris Clark looked good, I guess. I mean, it's nice to have him back and all, but the team still only managed one goal.
Between the Caps' woes and the Redskins' recent inability to score on six different attempts from inside the five yard line, I am becoming increasingly despondent over the state of my favorite teams. Which is good, I guess, if you're a purveyor of beer, wine and/or spirits in the Mt. Vernon Square neighborhood of D.C. But for the rest of us? This sucks.


Capitals 2 - Tampa Bay 5

As the saying goes: "If it ain't broke, juggle your line combinations and completely alter your overall gameplan."

Or so it would seem based on Glen Hanlon's handling of the team in tonight's 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay. After having success against the best team in the NHL by employing an aggressive forecheck, Hanlon elected to have the team play a more passive, trapping-style of game against a Lightening team that, much like the Senators, has most of it's firepower centered on one line. As a result, the Caps came out pretty flat in the first period, and were very lucky that the Lightning mailed the first period in as well. I don't think I've ever seen a more boring period of hockey played.

Hanlon also juggled the line combonations pretty drastically, at one point going so far as to send Nicklas Backstrom onto the ice in between similarly talented offensive dynamos Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley. Why? Why would he do that? There's no possible explanation for such a thing that could possibly make any sense. Although, to be fair, "The Killer B's" would be a great nickname for that line.

Okay. Rant over. Let's move on to my quick hit thoughts for the game:

  • Olie Kolzig looked kind of shaky at times. This team can't afford to have him do that. Ever.
  • Hello again, offensive-minded Mike Green. We missed you.
  • Donald Brashear, for the second time in three games, took a stupid penalty late in the game that really handcuffed any chance the Caps had of mounting a comeback.
  • Chris Bourque had 7:27 time on ice. How is it that Brashear and Bradley can get playing time with an offensive minded guy like Backstrom, but Bourque is left to languish on the fourth line and asked to fill a role he isn't really suited for?
  • After outshooting Ottawa 35-28, the Caps flipped the script and were outshot 34-25.
The Caps are now 2-5 at home, so perhaps it's a good thing that, after a four day layoff, their next two games are on the road against dvision rivals. Of course, one of those rivals are the Florida Panthers who have had the Caps' number for the last few seasons, and the other is this same Tampa Bay team. The Lightning are 6-0-1 at home, for those of you keeping score.


That's "Nicklas." With a "C."

Hi there, friends and neighbors! Let me very briefly apologize for my exceptionally long absence from the ol' blog here. I was really busy there for a while. I even missed the first three games of the season. After that, as you probably know, the Caps haven't done a whole lot worth writing about.

Tonight's win over Ottawa, however, is worth writing about. It is one thing to record a win against the team with the best record in the NHL. It is quite another to go into their home building and do it. IT's even better still when your team comes into the game mired in a soul-crushing slump that has catapulted you to the bottom of the league standings. Yet that is exactly, as you may have figured out by now, what the Washington Capitals did tonight, beating the Ottawa Senators by a final tally of 4-1.What follows here are various thoughts I had about tonight's game, organized by the player about whom I was thinking, in an easy to digest, bullet point format (including one needlessly ignorant statement), because I can no longer be bothered to string together a series of coherent paragraphs, sentences, or, on occasion, letters. Sooojruofm.

  • Alex Ovechkin - Had a good game. 1-1-2. Meh. Call me when he has a ten-goal night, because at this point, there's nothing more he can do to impress me more than he already has.
  • Victor Kozlov - He's playing much better after moving to his natural right wing position. This is a phrase I will probably write quite often. (Note to idiot coaches: Yes! I know it seems weird! But most players do, in fact, thrive when assigned to the roles for which they are best suited!)
  • NIKLAS BACKSTROM NICKLAS BACKSTROM!!!! He's playing much better after moving to his natural center position. It took him sixteen often-frustrating games, but Nick With a C finally kicks off the first six game goal scoring streak of his career. I'm assuming. (Ed. Note: How is it that I knew, almost immediately, that Backstrom had scored the goal while Smokin Al and Locker had to spend twenty minutes analyzing the replay? Because I saw Michael Nylander immediately reach into the net, pick up the puck, and skate off with a souvenir that will probably have some sentimental value for his young teammate. Because that's the kind of classy veteran Michael Nylander is. I guess what I'm trying to say is: I can't stand Al Koken.)
  • Brooks Laich - Played much of the game on the first line alongside Ovechkin and Michael Nylander, which I think is a brilliant move on the part of Glen Hanlon. If you can't put Chris Clark on Ovie's right wing, why not put his eerily similar looking doppelganger out there?
  • Speaking of Chris Clark, what's that guy's deal? He was practically invisible out on the ice tonight, almost as if he wasn't even there. Not the kind of play you expect from your captain.
  • Olie Kolzig - Had his best game of the season, I thought. His shutout against Carolina might have been better, but screw you, I missed that game because I was doing a play. I am a very busy and important person.
  • Kerry Fraser - Should not be required to wear a helmet. Period. The excess hair-product fumes that are trapped underneath that helmet seem to have done to Fraser's brain what they would otherwise be doing to our planet's ozone layer.
  • Chris Borque - Should consider plastic surgery. He could probably get more ice time on Ovechkin's line if his face starts looking more like a particular Lithuanian Devil. Of course, he'd also need to start skating on stilts. Even so, it's got to be better than the two-or-three-shifts-then-ride-the-bench strategy he and Donald Brashear employed tonight.
Did you find the needlessly ignorant statement? If you said to yourself "Biff, you moron, Chris Clark is on injured reserve", then you were right. If, however, you said it out loud, you probably should see a mental health professional.

Next game is at home Saturday night against the 0-6 on the road Tampa Bay Lightning.