The Washington Capitals are back on the ice on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center in an attempt to snap a two game losing streak when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at 7pm. Less than 1,000 tickets remain and this is the last time you will be able to purchase tickets to see them at home in January because the next two home games against Boston and Detroit are already sold out. The Caps put all kinds of shots at rookie goalie Steve Mason of Columbus on Friday and once again were brick walled by him, 3-0 to drop their home record to 18-2-1. Then on Saturday they managed to put four pucks past Montreal Canadiens goalie, Jaroslav Halak, but suffered an excruciating 5-4 loss in regulation when Karl Alzner, Milan Jurcina, and Brent Johnson all had chances to either clear the puck or stop it but failed to do so allowing Habs forward Sergei Kostitsyn to score the game winner with just 21 ticks left on the clock. The loss cost Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau an assistant coaching position at the All-Star game but, like I said on Friday, the All-Star game is a waste. So perhaps Boudreau can get some rest and recharge his battery for the stretch drive and the playoffs, like the rest of his troops will do next weekend, other than Alexander Ovechkin (main game) and Nicklas Backstrom (Young Stars game) who will be participating in the festivities.
So Edmonton is up on Tuesday night and then on Wednesday night the Caps travel to Pittsburgh to battle Sydney Crosby and the struggling Penguins. The Penguins will play the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday at the Wachovia Center so they will not be resting and waiting for the Caps, they have business to attend to as well in Philly. In the only other Caps-Penguins game this year the boys in red, white, and blue rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 at the Mellon Arena on October 16th.
I’ve said this at least once this year, losing streaks in an 82 game season are going to happen and the key is not to panic. The Detroit Red Wings endured a brutal 1-8-2 stretch last March, primarily due to injuries (sound familiar Caps fans?), and still ended up hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June. So a lost weekend is not something to jump off the ledge over right now. There are 39 games left before the playoffs.
However, there are issues this team has to deal with and besides the power play, which was interestingly analyzed by Japers Rink (http://www.japersrink.com/2009/1/12/717237/monday-roundup-fixing-the) on Monday, the big issue right now is what is GM George McPhee is going to do when this team likely gets healthy this week (defensemen John Erskine and Tom Poti are due back) because they could be over the salary cap?
When and just how much over the limit the Caps will be is not really known, except by McPhee and his staff, who analyze that every day. This is my best source for the numbers (http://www.nhlscap.com/teamnumbers.htm) and it shows the Caps have 0 savings to date but are projected to have $782,665 of salary cap room by season’s end. So to keep Alzner up, who makes $1.7M when you factor in his bonuses, somebody likely has to be moved or demoted. Rob Yunich, over at Storming the Crease (http://www.stormingthecrease.com/2009/01/montreal-meeting-jurcina-bus.html), thinks that Jurcina should be the guy traded. I’ve hinted, in my blog last week, that Shaone Morrisonn might be the player dealt simply because he makes $1.9M this year, is a restricted free agent after the season, and reportedly wants in the $3M a season range, which is likely too rich for the Caps blood.
So rather than speculating even more on what the Caps might do I got on the horn and exchanged texts with an NHL scout, who very likely would be in the know on players being shopped around the league, and asked him if he heard anything about the Caps trying to trade players. The response was “Nothing!” This seems to back up what McPhee told the media last week about how hard trades are to make and his desire to keep the current depth in the organization. I then asked the scout specifically about Morrisonn and let’s just say that he is not very high on #26 so if other teams around the league have the same opinion that this club does on him then he isn’t very marketable, especially given his money situation. So will Alzner be sent back to Hershey when Poti comes off long term injury this week? That we will find out soon but as we all have seen, #27 is NHL ready despite a rough weekend (perhaps Karl is worrying about his situation or maybe his right hand is still bothering him because those were not two of his better games last weekend?).
Interesting day Monday afternoon on Hockey Night in Canada radio as my favorite co-host, former NHL goalie Kelly Hrudey, was on with regular host Jeff Marek (Sirius 122 from 4 to 7pm). Here are some tidbits from Marek and Hrudey, who, in my opinion, is the most knowledgeable of all of the Marek co-hosts:
– Penguins Coach Michel Therien is in real trouble with his job (I mentioned this last week in one of my blogs)
– The talk of Calgary Flames forward Michael Cammalleri being traded has died down a little due to his recent solid play on Jarome Iginla’s line but since he is an unrestricted free agent at just over $3.3M he thinks he will be moved (the NHL scout I spoke with right before Christmas said that Calgary was not happy with him).
– St. Louis Team President John Davidson hinted on Monday that power forward Keith Tkachuk may want to move by the trade deadline to a Stanley Cup contender (how good would he look in a Caps uniform crashing the net and getting the garbage goals this team could definitely use this spring?)
The financial troubles of the Phoenix Coyotes seem to get worse. Check out this story for their latest round of problems (http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=3827740). This is too bad because Phoenix has some very good young players in Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker, Keith Yandle, Daniel Carcillo, and Kyle Turris.
Great game on Versus on Monday as the Dallas Stars rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings, 5-4, in overtime. Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood, who faced 49 shots, made some great saves including a dynamite one on Brad Richards in the second period, but couldn’t hold on for the win. By the way, the Stars, who are 18-17-6 overall and in 12th place in the Western Conference, are only three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. They are now 10-6-2 since the Sean Avery incident that caused him to be kicked off of the team (and this is also without injured forward Brendan Morrow who is done for the year with a torn ACL).