Pre-game: Today I am going to live blog this afternoon’s Caps-Panthers game. The Caps lead the Panthers by 15 points in the Southeast Division race. Also, with Martin Brodeur playing his third straight game the Devils are leading the Flyers, 2-0, in the third period so the Caps need to win to stay two points ahead of New Jersey for second place in the Eastern Conference.
In case you missed it, Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry blasted Alexander Ovechkin and his goal celebrations last night. You can view it at (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5ZPa_wmkyI), my response in my previous blog (http://wnst.net/wordpress/edfrankovic/2009/03/01/don-cherry-can-shove-it/) and Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s response at (http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=3943992)
Now to today’s game. Forward Jay Beagle has been recalled from Hershey and will replace Viktor Kozlov who is going to rest his groin today. Interestingly Michael Nylander will still be a healthy scratch and I support that as #92, as I’ve said several times, does not fit on this team. It looks like Boudreau is taking no chances on this game and will start Jose Theodore in goal in games on consecutive days for the fourth time this season (he started opening night in Atlanta but was replaced by Brent Johnson and came back to beat Chicago the next night; played both games of a home and home series with the Devils back in November; and played the Islanders/Ottawa back to back games before the all-star break). Also, Craig Anderson is starting in net for Florida. Something must be up with Vokoun because Anderson was bombed yesterday in New Jersey.
19:32 of first period – Radek Dvorak trips Sergei Fedorov and the Caps go on the power play. Craig Laughlin just said Vokoun has an ear problem, which makes sense.
18:34 – Caps up 1-0 on an Alexander Semin PP goal off a great pass from Brooks Laich. This is the 16th straight game the Caps have scored a goal in the first period and the first period power play continues to be red hot.
17:35 – Milan Jurcina takes a hooking penalty and the Panthers go on the power play. Devils are up 3-0 against Philly now and appear headed to another win, their third straigh with Brodeur back from injury.
16:20 – The Zebras are calling a penalty shot for Florida saying Theodore threw his stick (and he did). Good call. Nathan Booth will take it. Theodore makes a GLOVE Save!!! Still 1-0 Caps!
16:07 – So much for momentum, the Panthers tie it on a PP goal as Stephen Weiss fires in a rebound of a Bryan McCabe shot. It was a big rebound and I don’t think Theodore saw the initial shot from McCabe.
13:56 – The Caps are playing loose defensively and another penalty is being called on Washington. Florida had alot of extra time with the puck before the Caps could touch it to get the whistle. It looks like the Panthers are ready to make amends for yesterday’s blowout in New Jersey. Penalty called on Tomas Fleischmann for hooking.
13:01 – Caps penalty killing is now 0 for 2 and Bryan McCabe scores a goal on a nice shot as Jeff Schultz screens his own goalie. 2-1 Panthers. Schultz has been brutal this week.
11:21- Jay Bouwmeester hooks the Great #8 and the Caps go on their second power play. So far each call has seemed correct by the zebras.
10:35 – Anderson makes a big save on Mike Green back door to keep it 2-1.
9:12 – Florida kills the penalty, teams at even strength.
7:15 – Ovechkin goes end to end and is stopped by Anderson and knocked down but no call from the referees drawing questions from the Great #8. Caps all over Florida on this shift.
6:03 – Another penalty on the Caps, Nicklas Backstrom is called for interference against Richard Zednik.
5:41 – Booth fires wide and Theo goes down and as puck slides out back side right to Bouwmeester who makes the Panthers 3 for 3 on the power play. Caps have been BRUTAL on penalty kill to include Theodore. Perhaps Boudreau should have taken my advice to start rookie goalie Michal Nuevirth? 3-1 Panthers.
3:44 – Caps give up a three on two break and the Panthers Richard Zednik has an easy goal to make it 4-1. This is a disaster as the Panthers are flying and the Caps are sleep walking!
End of 1st Period – The Caps were just AWFUL and the Panthers were very good. Florida had an unacceptable 17 shots on goal on Kids Day at the Verizon Center (the first 5,000 kids 14 and under received photos of Capitals players individually autographed by those players). Not a good way to keep your young fans with a terrible performance like that. I think the Caps will be hard pressed to come back today, they look tired and disinterested.
Start of 2nd Period – Neuvirth is in net but I think it is 20 minutes too late. It wasn’t totally Theodore’s fault as his teammates were awful in front of him. But #60 was not good at all.
18:00 – Caps have come out strong to start this period but they have a HUGE hole to dig out of and Anderson is looking good so far. He was the first goalie to win in regulation at the Verizon Center this year back on December 2nd.
16:22 – Matt Bradley takes on tough Nick Tarnasky and Bradley wrestles him to the ice. 5 each for fighting.
13:13 – Antoher strong shift by Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin but they cannot score on Anderson, who is really playing well.
9:36 – This one is pretty much over as Florida cycles the puck in the Caps end for a good 45 seconds and then Jason Cullimore slaps one off of Schultz’s skate and over Neuvirth. Schultz was out of position once again and continues his HORRIBLE week. BRING UP Karl Alzner from Hershey and make a trade for another defensemen, this crew can’t play defense very well! 5-1 Florida.
9:04 – The nightmare continues as Jay Beagle is called for tripping and Florida will try to make it 4 for 4 on the PP. Can the Caps finally kill a penalty?
7:00 – Despite nearly all two minutes of the power play being in Washington’s end the Caps FINALLY kill a Panthers penalty!!!
4:51 – This game is getting hard to watch as the Caps have ZERO energy…
Checking the out of town scoreboard the Penguins are burying the Stars in Dallas, 4-0. I have maintained all along that the Penguins will come back and make the playoffs. In fact, I think they will pass Carolina, Florida, Buffalo, and the Rangers to become the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference and could be a likely first round matchup for Washington if they can’t finish 1st or 2nd in the East.
3:31 – Green takes a penalty for high sticking and the Panthers are moving it well on the PP again. Caps get a 2 on 1 shorthanded break but Laich can’t handle Semin’s pass. Caps kill this one in what is degenerating into a lifeless game.
End of Period Two: Panthers 5, Caps 1. Washington only had five shots that period while Florida had seven. A pitiful effort today from the Caps. About the only good thing coming out of this is Florida likely won’t trade Bouwmeester if they feel they can make the playoffs. I don’t want to see him on another Eastern Conference team.
Stat of the Day: The Devils, in three games since Martin Brodeur has returned from a nearly four month absence due to a bicep injury, have outscored their opponents 14-2!!! They have to be the favorites right now in the East, pending Wednesday’s trade deadline. Hopefully Anaheim decides to keep Scott Niedermayer and moves Chris Pronger instead (and not to New Jersey, hopefully to the Caps).
Evgeni Malkin has a goal and two assists for the Penguins today through two periods while Sydney Crosby was scratched due to injury again. I wonder if Cherry will blast the NHL’s leading scorer (Malkin now has 92 points) for something crazy next week since he was not born in Canada? The NHL league office can’t be happy with Cherry’s ridiculous comments on Ovechkin. Gary Bettman should come out and denounce them.
13:03 of Third Period – Caps showing more effort this period with six shots so far but they can’t solve Anderson. Still 5-1 Florida but Caps will still have a 13 point lead in the Southeast Division despite this ugly loss. Hopefully McPhee and his staff are working the phones seeking possible deals to upgrade Washington’s defense.
12:40 – After Neuvirth denied Weiss on a breakaway the Panthers win the face-off and Michael Frolik outworks Schultz (have I told you how terrible he has been lately??) for the puck in the slot and he puts it quickly past #30 to make it 6-1 Florida. Alzner has got to be called up from Hershey after this bad week of play by the Washington defense. Schultz needs to sit a game or two and Staffan Kronwall is not the answer.
11:31- Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Delay of Game on the Caps!! Green fires the puck over the glass. Florida gets their sixth PP of the day. I watch alot of hockey and don’t see other teams taking as many delay of game penalties as Washington does.
8:28 – Small victories…the Caps kill their third straight shorthanded situation after giving up goals on their first three tries in the first period.
Not much left to say on this one with just over five minutes remaining. The Caps will take on the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at 7pm. With less than three days to the trade deadline on Wednesday at 3pm players around the league will get antsy wondering if they are going to be moved.
The Caps are now 40-19-5 and have fallen to third place in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the Devils in points at 85 but New Jersey has a game in hand.
The Caps are only 3-3 on this home stand, after staring 22-4-1 at the Verizon Center this year, and have played two real clunkers against Colorado and Florida. All season the Caps have avoided a lull but this seems to be one right now, but no need to panic, although I do think they need to upgrade the defense for the post season.
The Caps are 2-2 against Florida this year with both Panther wins at the Verizon Center.
21.8 seconds left – After clanging the post on the rush before the Great #8 gets his 46th goal of the season as Anderson misplays Ovechkin’s wrister.
Final Score: 6-2 Panthers.