945pm Preview: Welcome back for another night of hockey as the Caps take on the Kings in Los Angeles tonight at the Staples Center. Based on what I just read in Tarik El-Bashir’s blog Brent Johnson will be in net tonight for Washington. The bad news is that Alexander Semin (upper body), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), and Mike Green (upper body) are all out of the line-up once again. The good news is that defensemen Shaone Morrisonn is set to return after missing six games due to a groin muscle issue.
Here is some scoop on the Kings based on a 15 minute interview that Jeff Marek and Craig Simpson of Hockey Night in Canada Radio had with Los Angeles former player and broadcaster Jim Fox today. The Kings last year could score but gave up a ton of goals so new coach Terry Murray (yes, that Terry Murray!) has the team focused on defense so they are giving up fewer goals but their offense is not scoring a lot (they have one goal in their last 2 games). Last year’s young sensation, Anze Kopitar (32G, 45A in 82 games), has only two goals so far this season but has 11 assists and leads the team in scoring. Kopitar will play on the top line for Los Angeles with Dustin Brown, a gritty forward with some skill, and Patrick O’Sullivan, a young player with skill and in my opinion, no grit. On defense veteran Sean O’Donnnell has been great as a leader and on the ice and according to Fox he is a big reason why the Kings penalty killing is in the top three in the NHL. Also, 2008 1st Round (2nd overall) NHL Entry Draft pick Drew Doughty has blossomed quickly on defense and continues to gain ice time under Murray. Matt Greene, who came over from Edmonton in the Lubomir Visnovsky trade along with forward Jarret Stoll, is solid on defense. Other defensemen include Denis Gauthier, who loves the open ice hit, and Tom Preissing, who is more focused on offense.
According to Fox the play of goalie Erik Ersberg is another reason for the Kings ability to keep a game low scoring. Ersberg is 4-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA, and will likely start his eighth straight game ahead of previous No. 1 goalie Jason LaBarbera, who hasn’t gotten the call since Nov. 1. Ersberg has never faced the Capitals. Fox also said that Murray feels that he knows how to defend Ovechkin and the Caps based on last season’s playoff series, when Murray was an assistant coach with the Flyers, and was discussing that knowledge this morning.
From working with Terry back in the 90’s I do agree that he is a good tactician but, in my opinion, the reason the Caps lost that playoff series last year was due to inexperience early on and some bad breaks (basically that is a nice way to say the officiating stunk). We’ll see if the Kings can contain Alexander the Great, who has a five game goal scoring streak and has six goals and eight assists in those five games. The Great #8 leads the NHL in plus/minus at +18.
One other note, it is Russian Heritage night at the game in LA and according to Fox there are alot of Russians looking to see Ovechkin. The Kings also have a decent Russian player in Alexander Frolov, someone Washington needs to cover closely because he has alot of skill. The Caps cannot afford to take the Kings lightly and must keep performing at a high level as they’ve done since the Buffalo debacle on November 1st.
1003pm – Around the NHL tonight update: In the Southeast Division both the Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers played and lost. Florida was beaten 3-1 by the Devils and the Thrashers lost to the Penguins 3-2. Atlanta is now 7-9-2 on the year and Florida 7-10-1. I’m watching the Calgary-Colorado game that is scoreless in the 2nd period. The Flames have hit a couple of posts.
1027pm – Just checked out Tarik’s blog and Mike Green had an MRI today. Results will not be known until after the game. Keep your fingers crossed…Green did tell Tarik this afternoon that his shoulder was already feeling better…time to switch off the Flames game (1-0 Calgary) and get over to Joe B and Locker.
1038pm – Hall of Famer Igor Larionov drops the ceremonial puck between Ovechkin and Frolov…time to go with the real thing
1040pm – Oscar Moller takes Boyd Gordon giveaway and fires quality scoring chance on Brent Johnson but “Here’s Johnny” is back and makes the save
1042pm – Kings take first penalty, a careless hook by Kyle Calder after LA had lots of pressure in DC end. PP Caps..
1045pm – Caps continuing to move the puck to the point and blast with traffic in front…I like it and I’m sure Boudreau does too…obviously no Green hurts though
1048pm – Caps struggling to clear their own zone by breaking out up the wall as Kings are pinching their D down…look for Boudreau to make an adjustment on that if things keep up that way…
1051pm – More Kings pressure in Caps zone and Johnson holds on to soft point shot from LA.
1056pm – Brent Johnson seems to have picked up where he left off before his hip injury as he shuts the door on Dustin Brown in close after a couple of other saves. Shots are 7-2 Kings and they are outplaying the Caps here early.
1101pm – We have the same 2 referees as last night, let’s hope there are fewer PPs… so far it appears that is the way it will be…Caps starting to show some life…Morrisonn fanned on what looked to be a good scoring chance…6 games out will throw your timing off..
1104pm – 1-0 Kings on deflected Doughty point shot that hits Ovechkin’s stick, rises, and goes in over the shoulder of Johnson. Kings cash in on early momentum
1107pm – Another penalty on Kings will get the Caps their second PP of the night.
1110pm – If Poti can one time one of these cross ice PP passes the Caps should score but he is not firing the 1-timer
End of 1st Period: 1-0 Kings as LA outshoots Caps 12-3. Washington players can expect a tongue lashing from Boudreau as LA flat out outworked Washington. Yes Washington has some injuries and played last night but this is no time for excuses. Caps need to start moving their feet.
1121pm – In response to Mike’s comment below I found the following about the NHL salary cap on injuries
- A player expected to miss at least 10 games and 24 days due to injury can be listed as a long-term injury (LTI).
- An LTI can be covered by replacement players, as long as the replacement salaries do not exceed the salary of the injured player.
- If the replacement salaries would push a team over the salary cap, the team is allowed cap relief, but only for the portion of the salary that exceeds the cap.
- When the injured player returns, the team must immediately comply with the normal terms of the salary cap.
- INJURED RESERVE LIST (IR) - the list of players who are not able to play for their team due to injury or illness. Players designated for IR must be on for a minimum of seven (7) days; assignments to IR can be made retroactively.
My comment: It looks like a retroactive move could be made and save some cap dollars…I’ll have to ask George about this next week when the Caps are back in town
Update: I found the following link that says IR players count against the Cap during the season. Bottom line: the Cap is very confusing….http://www.nhlscap.com/cap_faq.htm
1133pm – 2nd period underway and it is tight hockey but Kings still have best chance so far…still looking to see some jump from the Caps…they are not skating right now
1136pm – Big chance for Caps as they draw a 5 on 3 two minute PP…Caps MUST score here
1137pm – Beautiful back door pass from Kozlov to Backstrom and #19 slams it home…this game is tied!
1140pm – Laich, Brashear, Fehr have great shift with puck cycling…lets see if Caps can build off of that pressure
1143pm – Penalty coming up on Caps for tripping by Clark. Joe B is insisting Kings goalie Ersberg is hurting. Could we see Jason LaBarbera?
1146pm – Locker calls this an automatic: Caps will now be 2 men short…time for Johnny to hold the fort
1149pm – Brooks Laich incredibly blocks 3 shots with his hands and foot (his stick broke) and heads to dressing room..he is one tough dude…time for Caps to turn penalty kill momentum into a lead
1151pm – Johnson makes big save on Simmonds on 4 on 3 Kings rush…game still tied despite LA dominance to this point
1156pm – Caps sloppy again and Erskine makes bad pinch and gets caught behind net…Kings go other way, almost score, but do draw a penalty…Fehr on a hook…
1200pm – Puck bounces over Ovechkin’s stick on good chance and O’Sullivan comes back the other way and scores a bad 5 hole goal on Johnson. Only 135 left in the period so this goal hurts
1201am – Stoll hits post when wide open in slot. Caps get lucky but still aren’t playing well.
End of 2nd period: Horrible last 2 minutes from Caps to continue poor play on the night. They are being outshot 23-9 and trail 2-1. The team seems to have no legs tonight. Kings are fresh and skating hard. Johnson gave up a bad second goal but has made some other very good saves. Brooks Laich did come back to play after blocking shots with several parts of his body when he did not have a stick.
1214pm – Tyler Sloan has only played 844 of ice time tonight. Poti leads team with 1539 logged. Ovechkin leads all Caps forwards with 1355 of time
1224am – Just over 3 minutes in…first 2 minutes were all Kings but last minute was all Caps
1226am – Ovechkin picked clean by Doughty..I thought he should have fired the wrister instead of trying the extra move…needs to use defensemen as a screen like he has done in the past
1229am – Time for some other line to step up…Fleischmann almost hits Steckel on great pass but it bounces over #39′s stick..
1232am – Ovechkin goes around Doughty but Ersberg stops his backhander…
1236am – Clark too slow on the way back and gives Kings a couple of golden chances to end this one but Johnson comes up huge..Caps offense seems to be focused on springing Ovechkin on a long breakaway pass (cherry picking)..
1241am – UH OH…Ovechkin down on ice clutching head as he and Brown run into each other…penalty on #8..should have been a no call…bad officiating…it was coincidental contact…Ovechkin appears to be okay
1244am – Kings go end to end as Tom Quincey feeds Dustin Brown for what looks like game clincher, 3-1 Kings
1246am – Shots are 30-17 Kings and they have totally outplayed a depleted and tired Caps team. Not much more to analyze.
1249am – Nylander makes great play and shoots hard low one that Ersberg bobbles and Laich stuffs it in to make it 3-2….433 to go
1250am – Clark kills the team again with a bad delay of game penalty…only 351 to go and Kings back on PP
1253am – Caps kill penalty…only 69 seconds left and Johnny on the bench..need an offensive zone faceoff
1254am – Handzus hits open net….this garbage of a Caps performance is over…
1257am – Another empty netter…5-2 final for the Kings who played hard and deserved to win.
Here’s my 3 stars on the night
1. Drew Doughty
2. Dustin Brown
3. Patrick O’Sullivan