Saturday Night Caps and Hockey Thoughts

April 04, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

Tarik El-Bashir is reporting in his Capitals Insider blog that Sergei Fedorov limped off at practice today from an injury sustained in Friday night’s loss overtime to Buffalo. After Friday’s game, we talked to a subdued #91 and I posted his quotes in my blog last night. Anyways, Fedorov definitely walked over slowly to meet with us after the game and seemed bummed out. I had thought he was just upset about the game but apparently there is more to this. We’ll see how effective he is on Sunday but the Caps need the three time Stanley Cup Champion to be healthy when the playoffs start at Verizon Center on either Wednesday, April 15th or Thursday, April 16th. By the way, Fedorov, who had the costly giveaway that resulted in the Sabres winning goal, showed alot of class coming out and talking to the media after a tough loss and a possible injury. He is a true professional, very accountable, and a leader for his teammates. He didn’t duck or back away from any of the questions thrown his way.

The Caps are now tied with the New Jersey Devils for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference as Martin Brodeur and company held off a furious Sabres rally in Buffalo tonight to win, 3-2. The Caps have four games left while the Devils have three but because New Jersey has two more wins than Washington, the first tie-breaker goes to New Jersey. The Devils have Toronto at home, then are in Ottawa, and finish with the streaking Hurricanes at home on Saturday. The Caps have Atlanta at home tomorrow, then are in Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Florida during the week. It looks like Washington may have to win all four games to get second place or at least go 3-0-1 because the only game I see New Jersey having trouble with is Carolina. The Devils just need one point or a Philadelphia missed point to clinch the Atlantic Division title.

Nice catch over at On Frozen Blog as apparently the Sabres were offside on the play that resulted in Jason Pominville’s overtime winning goal on Friday. Check out that piece and the seemingly conclusive picture at http://onfrozenblog.com/2009/04/04/a-bad-non-call-decides-a-bad-game.html (oh and kudos to Japers Rink for being a great one stop shop for Caps coverage. I especially enjoy his “What We’re Reading Section” and that led me right to OFB).

Good news down on the farm tonight as rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth saved 40 of 42 shots to give the Hershey Bears a 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in a shootout. The Bears now have 104 points with three games to go (they lead second place Bridgeport by four points and the third place Penguins by five points in the Eastern Conference East Division). Neuvirth had been under the weather prompting the Bears to call up Brandon Holtby (19 years old), Washington’s fourth round choice in the 2008 NHL entry draft, from Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League to back up Darren Machesney. I saw Holtby play in last year’s rookie development camp and was impressed with him. The Caps future in net looks very good when you add Holtby into the mix to go with Jose Theodore (signed for next year), Simeon Varlamov, Neuvirth, and Machesney. Holtby won 40 games for the Saskatoon Blades this season and is already under contract with Washington.

The Caps set a single season attendance record last night and will add to it Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center against the Thrashers. Before last night’s game I was sitting on a chair talking on the cell phone to my wife when owner Ted Leonsis strolled by and said hello and shook my hand. I would have loved to have had a quick chat with him but the real boss was on the phone. I’m not sure if Ted knows who I am or not but the one thing that has been consistent about the owner is this: he makes every possible attempt to connect with the fans and thank them for their support (when shown on the video screens at home games his first move is typically a “thank you” kiss to the fans). Leonsis, who made some mistakes early on (but which owner hasn’t?) and is very passionate about Caps hockey, deserves alot of credit for sticking to his plan and also for not holding grudges against any detractors during his tenure (he’s clearly won Tom Boswell of the Washington Post over). Leonsis is successful because he takes a “kill you with kindness” approach. There is a certain baseball team here in the area who could learn alot from Leonsis about running a sports team.

You probably need an Alpha Bits secret decoder ring to figure out who is going to make the playoffs in the Western Conference as Anaheim, St. Louis, Nashville, Minnesota, and Edmonton are fighting for the last two post season spots. As I said to Mike Vogel of WashingtonCaps.com last night, if I am Detroit or San Jose the last team I want to play in the first round is Anaheim. The Ducks are only two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup and with a defense that includes Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, and James Wisniewski they are not going to be an easy out. The Ducks are 8-2 in their last 10 games and Jonas Hiller has won six of his last seven games in goal and seems to have wrestled the #1 job, at least temporarily, from Stanley Cup winning goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere. They lead the San Jose Sharks 4-2 after two periods tonight at San Jose and play them again on Sunday in Anaheim. Ducks rookie Bobby Ryan has scored his 29th goal of the season and if not for the play of Columbus goalie Steve Mason, who is a lock to win the Calder Trophy, he would get my vote for rookie of the year over goalie Pekka Rinne (Nashville), and forwards Blake Wheeler (Boston), Kris Versteeg (Chicago), and Patrick Berglund (St. Louis).

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