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Caps Fall to Avs, 3-2

Posted on 11 December 2010 by Ed Frankovic

For the first time in the Bruce Boudreau era the Washington Capitals have a five game losing streak as the Caps flu ridden team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche at the Verizon Center on Saturday night. Once again the opposing goalie was the story as Craig Anderson stopped 40 shots and the Avs net minder was very fortunate to escape with a victory as the Capitals misfired on several good chances. Washington completes a four game home stand at 0-3-1 and their overall record falls to 18-10-3.

Here are the highlights and analysis from a good effort by the Caps that didn’t get the desired result:

– The Caps worked hard and arguably deserved to win but there are three plays that cost them a victory and they were all bad ones by Washington. First, Michal Neuvirth gave up an awful bad angle goal to Kevin Shattenkirk less than three minutes into this tilt. Second, Tom Poti is horribly out of position on an Avalance rush and Ryan Wilson comes down the slot all alone on #30 and beats him. Finally, with the score 2-1 Colorado, Alexander Semin, after taking two whacks to the midsection from John-Michael Liles, responded with a dirty and cheap shot cross check to the neck/back of the head of #4 and was whistled for a five minute major and a game misconduct. Argue all you want against that call and you will be wrong on that one, it was a stupid and selfish retaliation penalty. The Avalanche would score once on the long power play and that goal was the final difference.

– Alexander Ovechkin (1 assist, 5 hits, +1) was a force in this one and he, along with Matt Hendricks (1 goal and 4 hits), set the tone for Washington with their physical presence and determination. For many Capitals this was their best tilt of the disastrous home stand and their head coach certainly recognized it.

“That looked more like our team tonight…it is on the upswing, not on the downswing. If we have an effort like that tomorrow we might get rewarded for it,” started Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau, “You could tell the difference with Alex, he was skating, he was moving and he was hitting. I thought he did a good job that way,” finished the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on his team captain’s strong effort against Colorado.

– Clearly the team missed the services of defenseman Mike Green, who is out with the flu, and it was rather apparent that Nicklas Backstrom is still struggling healthwise too. #19 was a terrible 4-15 on face-offs and he was uncharacteristically taken off the puck behind the net on several occassions, something that is a rarity. Boudreau was quick to give his #1 center a pass despite the lack of production.

“Backstrom could be better, he tried, but he’s coming right out of the sick bed,” finished Boudreau.

– Despite the fifth straight defeat there is no need to panic right now. Those calling for drastic measures should calm down. It is December and the Caps are banged up and not healthy at all at this point in time. Once this flu bug goes away, we’ll get a better idea of where the Caps are when they take on the Penguins twice in nine days between December 23rd and January 1st. If Washington doesn’t fair well in those tilts, then we can start talking changes, but I don’t expect the Caps to get beaten by a Pittsburgh club that might be peaking too early.

Notes: Next up for the Caps are the New York Rangers on Sunday at 7pm from Madison Square Garden and you can bet the farm that Semyon Varlamov will be in goal for Washington…I expect Semin to get at least a fine and perhaps a suspension for his dirty hit. There is no excuse for his actions on that play…Washington was outdueled, 36-31, from the face-off dot due to Backstrom’s struggles, which stem from his lack of strength due to the flu (perhaps someone else should have taken some of those draws?)…team guy Matt Bradley fought heavyweight Cody McLeod after #55 raced a good distance and hit him on the boards (no call from the zebras though for charging). #10, after being scratched against the Panthers, was -2 but that was the fault of Neuvirth and Poti…Marcus Johansson was scratched and his play has tailed off again, but he is a rookie…Mike Knuble had a goal and an assist and could have had more points since Ovechkin was a wrecking ball and constantly fed the puck into the crease area…that is it for tonight, sorry for the short blog, I have the flu too (was in Caps locker room following Thursday’s tilt).

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Caps Rookies Knock Off Flyers, 4-3

Posted on 16 September 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Caps Win Rookie Game

The Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in their rookie game Thurday afternoon at Kettler IcePlex. Highlights of the tilt are up at washingtoncaps.com. Cody Eakin, who was taken in the 3rd round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by Washington, notched the game winner while 2010 3rd rounder Stanislav Galiev tallied first for the red, white, and blue by going to the net and banging home a Marcus Johansson (2009 1st round selection) feed. Defenseman Josh Godfrey (2007 2nd round choice) tallied twice for Washington on the power play in between those markers. Philip Grubauer (2010 4th round selection), who won the Memorial Cup with Windsor this past spring, started in net and gave way to Brandon Anderson, who played for Lethbridge of the WHL last season. Based on the highlights alone, it looks like Grubauer was very strong in net while Anderson had some struggles. The Capitals plan on posting the entire feed of the contest on their website sometime Thursday evening. Even though it was just a rookie game, it is always fun when the Caps beat the Flyers.

Interview with Dustin Stevenson

After Wednesday’s practice I had a chance to catch up with 21 year old defenseman Dustin Stevenson, who the Caps signed this off-season as a free agent out of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Stevenson, who is wearing #66 with Washington, had 11 goals, 36 assists and 134 PIMs in 56 games for the La Ronge Ice Wolves and he was also named 2009-10 SJHL Player of the Year. During the Caps July development camp he was very noticeable in a positive way and was one of the big surprises of that week.  Here is the transcript of the interview with the 6′ 5″ blue liner:

WNST: Tell us a little bit about how the first four days have gone and what your expectations are for the coming season?

Stevenson: The past few days have gone well. It is nice getting to know all of these guys that are in the system. I think we came together well as a team over the past few days. I’m learning the systems a bit here and getting ready for the big game [on Thursday vs. the Flyers]. I guess my expectations for this year is to take as much as I can from these camps, try and sponge up as much as I can. Wherever they put me I’ll try and make the best of it.

WNST: You are a pro this year so you are going to play in either Hershey or South Carolina, correct?

Stevenson: That’s right, [Hershey] is my goal for now but they’ll do whatever they think is best for me. So like I said I’ll try and make the best of wherever they put me.

WNST: If someone asked you to describe your game, what type of style you play and your strengths, how would you answer that?

Stevenson: I like to think that I am pretty good at moving the puck. I try and play a physical game too. I was on the power play back with my old team and quarterbacked that. I like to think that I am a bit of an offensive defenseman as well.

WNST: Tell me a little bit about the Saskatchewan league last year, how your team did, and what that did to prepare you for this move up in your career.

Stevenson: I had great coaching on my old team. We won the league so it helped to get that extra couple of months in and playoffs and everything and I learned quite a bit. Like I said I had good coaching along the way so to win the league was awesome.

WNST: Who was your coach?

Stevenson: Bob Beatty and Gavin Holcomb. Bob played pro for a quite a few years and he was kind of a tough nosed defenseman, so I learned a lot from him.

WNST: What are some of the areas that you want to improve on?

Stevenson: Obviously I need to work on my foot speed a little bit. I think everyone needs to do that when they make the next step up. I also think just concentrate on my d-zone and playing good defense. The guys are bigger and stronger and faster in pro. I’m going to have to make sure that I am prepared as much as possible for them coming down on me one-on-one. It’s going to be a bit of a change. So just work on my d-zone a bit.

WNST: What have the coaches, either Bruce [Boudreau], Mark [French], or Troy [Mann], said to you since rookie camp or this week?

Stevenson: After prospects camp I talked to Bruce and he said he really didn’t know what to expect with me coming from Tier II Junior A. He said he was happy with the way my camp went and to just keep working hard and take the rest of my summer to train and try and get better and come back to this rookie camp and compete the way I did in the summer camp and see what happens.

WNST: Coming from Tier II Junior A and now competing against high draft picks like Evgeni Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, and Stan Galiev has there been a big change for you speedwise?

Stevenson: It hasn’t been too bad. They are definitely very skilled players but it is nice to have them on your team as well because the better the players are around you the better that makes me play. I think they are very skilled players but I haven’t found it too hard. I think I fit in well.

WNST: What do you look for in a defensive partner, given that you said offense is your strength?

Stevenson: My defense partner I played with last season, he and I just gelled well. You know they can put me with anybody and as I get to know the way they play you kind of work with each other and I’m sure whoever they put me with will be fine.

WNST: So how did you end up with Washington?

Stevenson: I was just playing back in Saskatchewan and I guess I got scouted a little bit and then [Caps Director, Player Development] Steve Richmond came out and watched me play a couple of times. I just met with him. He took me out for dinner a couple of times to meet my family and ask me what my future plans were and I told him I was going to college. The original plan was he wanted me to do that, he thought that was a good idea, but then I guess he had a change of heart and he offerred me a contract so I talked it over with my family there and we felt it was the best decision for me and we feel it would be the best for my development.

Notes: Friday is off-ice testing at Kettler IcePlex for the Caps players so their will be no media availability or coverage. Training camp officially begins, for the veterans, on Saturday. At 10am Group A will practice followed by Group B at 1115am and Group C at 1pm. On Sunday, at Noon, Group B takes on Group C in game one of the three day round robin scrimmage event with the winner hoisting the Gaetan Duchesne Cup following Tuesday’s tilt.

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Don’t Change Your Style Caps!

Posted on 29 April 2010 by Ed Frankovic

The 2009-10 Washington Capitals sold out every single home game, set a club record for points in a season (121), and scored a league leading 313 goals, which was 45 more than the second place Vancouver Canucks. However, after Washington was upset in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven games by the Montreal Canadiens there are people in the hockey world (other teams employees, media, fans, etc.) who insist the Caps need to change their style of play if they want to win the Stanley Cup. Even more crazy is there are some who are calling for Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau to be fired after he just orchestrated the single greatest regular season in franchise history. My reply to all of this talk is:  STOP THE NONSENSE! (which is a nicer way of saying, ala Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “What are you people, on dope??!!”)

First off, the system works and it fits Washington’s make-up, granted I will argue that some changes in personnel need to be made to make it work even better, but more on that later. When Boudreau was hired the Caps stunk. They were 6-14-1 and in last place in the Eastern Conference. They had a bunch of young and highly skilled players but they were using an archaic system under former Coach Glen Hanlon. Enter “Gabby” and suddenly the Caps are more aggressive, score goals, and are exciting to watch. He also has led them to three straight Southeast Division titles and a third, second, and first place finish, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. The first season fans were just happy to make the playoffs and the loss to Philadelphia in the first round in seven games was considered a good first step. Then last season, Washington grew up and took eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh to seven games in the second round before losing convincingly in the last tilt, 6-2. Naturally expectations were high for 2009-10 and the Capitals delivered in the regular season setting the marks mentioned in the opening above. However, come playoff time, something happened on the way to the Forum and all of that firepower fizzled out, mostly due to a hot goalie but also due to some defencies on the Washington end. After last night’s loss, which can definitely be considered a post season step back, some have hit the panic button.

The easiest thing for critics of the Caps to point to are the comments from R.J. Umberger of Columbus that came after Washington beat the Blue Jackets, 3-2, in a meaningless affair in Ohio on April 3rd. Specifically Umberger said the following about the Caps:

“I don’t think any team in the West would be overmatched by them,” Umberger said. “They play the wrong way. They want to be moving all the time. They float around in their zone, looking for breakaways and odd-man rushes. A good defensive team is going to beat them (in the playoffs). If you eliminate your turnovers and keep them off the power play, they’re going to get frustrated because they’re in their zone a lot.”

Naturally after the Caps were knocked off by Montreal, which on paper appears to be a defensive team, the Umberger quotes were thrown in their face and labeled as correct. Ludicrous accusations, I say. Umberger basically says all you need to do is keep the Caps off of the power play because they won’t be able to get out of their zone and that will allow you to beat them with defensive mistakes. Well you don’t have to be a prosecutor or attorney on Law & Order to see that Umberger’s quote does not match what actually happened between the Caps and the Habs. Montreal DID take penalties, in fact, Washington had 33 attempts in seven games, nearly five a tilt, but they only scored once in the entire series with a manpower advantage. In addition, the puck spent very little time in Washington’s zone, other than short stretches in the early minutes of several of the contests and the proof of that is the Caps outshot Montreal by a staggering 292-194! Those stats do not represent the work of a club that chooses to “float in their own zone looking for breakaways.” The truth is the Caps dominated the play but lost due to an anemic power play, great goaltending by Halak, and the unwillingness of some Caps players to make the hard plays necessary to score goals.

Now that we have dispelled the Umberger myth let’s get back to some of the other thoughts on the style of play. Teams say because Washington is an offensive minded team that they can’t win the Stanley Cup. To that I say, any of those people ever see the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s or the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 1990’s or some of the Detroit Red Wings teams’ that have won Stanley Cups in the last 15 years? We’ll get to those teams in a minute but does anyone really think that taking the skilled players the Caps have and putting them in a system like what the New Jersey Devils play will work in the post lockout era? Sure New Jersey is good during the regular season but in the playoffs their trapping, defensive system has led to three straight first round defeats with arguably the greatest goalie of all time in net (Martin Brodeur). To see more proof that their system does not work look no further than the mid-season addition of Ilya Kovalchuk. The highly skilled Russian, in the Devils defense first mantra, was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle for New Jersey but he was unable to get Jacques Lemaire’s club out of the first round. So to think Washington should switch to a trapping, defensive system is pure hogwash. That style doesn’t work anymore.

The truth is, the Caps are playing the right system and post season setbacks will happen, especially to young teams like Washington has and despite what many people may be thinking today, this difficult experience is not all bad. Reference the 1981-82 Edmonton Oilers. This Wayne Gretzky led club, after being knocked out in the first round in their initial playoff appearance in 1979-80 and then defeated in round two in the post season in 1980-81, set the league on fire scoring an NHL record 417 goals! The Oilers notched 111 points and won their division, over the Vancouver Canucks, by 34 points (sound familiar?) but somehow got bounced in a best of five series by a Los Angeles Kings club that only amassed 63 points in the regular season. Wow, I guess breaking up Edmonton and changing their system, one that reflected the then clutch and grab..er Stanley Cup Champion New York Islanders were employing in that era was what should have happened next, right? But no, Edmonton Coach Glen Sather stayed the course, made some minor personnel tweaks (added forward Ken Linesman from Philadelphia), and in 1982-83 they went to the Finals only to lose to the Islanders. But in 1984 and 1985 they were Stanley Cup Champions and in 1987 and 1988 they did that again. I know people were all over Sather, Gretzky, Messier and company after the Kings debacle but the Edmonton brain trust knew what they had and didn’t panic. They simply allowed the young players they had to mature and one of the lessons learned was realizing the price that needed to be paid to win in the post season. This is similar to what the Red Wings went through during the 1990’s before they finally broke through and won back to back Cups in 1997 and 1998. I vividly remember the Red Wings being labeled as the typical Presidents’ Trophy team that could not get it together in the playoffs, much like the monikor the San Jose Sharks are wearing in current times.

If you look at the personnel on that 81-82 Oilers team the names Gretzky and Mark Messier jump out first. The two great centers were flanked by pure goal scorers Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri. They were also led on the blue line by a fast skating, offensive minded defenseman named Paul Coffey, who took a lot of heat in his career for his play in his own zone. In goal they had a young and acrobatic Grant Fuhr and they had a super solid Kevin Lowe on the back end who focused on defense first.

Circling back to Washington, I see a lot of similarities in the 2009-10 Capitals with the 1981-82 Oilers, although that Edmonton team was clearly deeper up the middle and on the back end. The Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom combination is not Gretzky-Messier but it isn’t way off the map as far as top ranked players in the league at the time are concerned, except that the Great #8 plays left wing. Two time Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green can be compared to #77 and in 81-82, Coffey only had a goal and an assist in five post season tilts before figuring out how to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs and recording seven goals and seven assists in the Oilers run to the finals in 82-83. Fuhr was a phenomenal goalie but he was lit up in five games going 2-3 with a 5.05 GAA in 81-82 but in their Cup run in 1983-84 he kept the GAA down to 2.99. Varlamov certainly has the ability of a young Fuhr. Anderson was a great skater and could fill the net and the closest comparison would be Mike Knuble, although #22 has nowhere near the speed that #9 had. Now the similarities start to get a little dicey, Kurri was a pure goal scorer who could play defense. Semin is the closest Capital in skill and ability but from what I have seen from #28 he has nowhere near the drive to be like #17 at both ends of the rink. Washington also doesn’t really have a Lowe type d-man right now. Would it be Tom Poti? Jeff Schultz? or perhaps could it be Karl Alzner? Big stretch on that front, if you ask me.

Clearly that Edmonton squad was great and they managed to learn from that first round knock out in their third playoff season. But Washington has a talent base that is somewhat comparable and the teams play very similar styles. With the post lockout rules, the game has become much more like the mid-eighties with the notable exception being the ability of the goalies and the increased size of their equipment. A Capitals style of hockey works, if Boudreau and GM George McPhee have the right players that execute the system.

Execution was clearly lacking against Montreal. Some players were not physical enough (see Tomas Fleischmann) to handle the demands of the high energy system while others just don’t seem to have the speed or size to punish opponents on the backend. This team will improve based on maturity and experience alone, but to take it to the next level some pieces of the puzzle need to be found. First and foremost is a second line center. Boudreau said himself that secondary scoring was what was missing from his club in 2010. Would a better center help Semin get going? Probably not, #28 still performed in the same soft manner when paired with Backstrom in game six, but if you brought in a real #2 pivot man then a Brooks Laich or an Eric Fehr likely pots more tallies in the post season. Based on this, Semin is disposable, especially if he fails to compete like he did for much of the Montreal series. The defense could use some tweaks in addition to the permanent promotions of Alzner and John Carlson. Specifically the blue line could use a guy who is physical in his own end, can wear smaller opponents out, and block shots.

In summary, the disappointment from 2009-10 is very high right now, but to do something drastic like changing the system or firing the coach makes zero sense. These guys are not going to become the 1995 or 2002-03 New Jersey Devils nor do the current rules dictate that type of system will work. An offensive team that is willing to pay the price at both ends of the rink is what has won the last two Stanley Cups and will likely take it again this year.  Washington just needs to mature as a team and realize that from puck drop they need to be ready. They clearly were not this post season. Finally, McPhee must fill some of the final holes on his roster, with a focus on finding another line that can score when it counts.

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Bradley, Varlamov Help Caps Beat Thrashers, 2-1

Posted on 01 April 2010 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals faced another desperate team on Thursday night, in the Eastern Conference ninth place Atlanta Thrashers who were just two points out of a playoff spot coming into this contest, and they managed to get some super timely goaltending from Semyon Varlamov (19 saves) along with a big third period goal from Matt Bradley to win, 2-1. This victory halted a three game losing streak for Washington, although one defeat came in a shootout while another was in overtime, and gave them win #50 on the season. This is the first time in franchise history that the Capitals have had back to back 50 win seasons. Washington’s overall record is 50-15-12 (112 points) and they need just three points, gained via themselves or missed ones by the Sharks, to capture the franchise’s first ever President’s Trophy. 

The Caps are now 32-1-1 when they hold an opponent to two goals or less (the regulation loss was in LA, 2-1, in January) and are 34-7-6 on the season when they score the first goal of the game.

Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes, and analysis of a game that was atypical of past Caps-Thrashers tilts:

I’m gonna start with Mike Green because he deserves the most praise tonight. Watching this contest I only felt comfortable when #52 was on the ice when it came to the Caps blueliners. Green, who has been overly criticized for his defensive zone play over the years, has taken his game to another level since the Olympic break and he has been ultra consistent on a game to game basis. The Calgary native continues to rack up the points to lead the NHL by d-men (18 goals, 55 assists) and his rocket of a shot on a nice Alexander Ovechkin feed was tipped home by Nicklas Backstrom to give Washington a lead late in period one.  Here are the stats on #52 tonight: 24:20 of ice time, 1 assist, four hits (led the team), and was +1 (now +35 on the year). Afterwards Green spoke to Comcast’s Lisa Hillary.

“When you pay attention to detail and you do the simple things, which is what is asked of us most nights, you come out successful like that. Tonight, I thought the last seven minutes of the game we really played tight defense as as team. We were protecting the lines, we were getting the pucks deep, guys were coming off hard, that is what it is going to take to win in the playoffs,” said Green, who just seems so focused on the ice right now.

As for Bradley, it had been 25 games (last goal vs. Wings on 1/19) since he tallied, and you could kind of see it coming the way he was working hard and being one of the FEW guys on the team who was going to the net. The Professor notched his ninth marker of the season to go with 13 assists and he has matched his career high with five games remaining. The fan favorite is a guy that Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau likes having on his team as well.

“He’s got nine goals, which is the most he’s ever had since I’ve been here and it’s been awhile since he scored. He does his job all of the time and he comes out and he tries. I don’t know how you can get mad at him or think that he is one who is not doing his job, because he knows what his job is, to prevent other guys from scoring, not scoring goals but he got one tonight and everyone gets rewarded now and again…He knocked [Thrashers 48 year old defenseman, Chris Chelios] off of the puck. I don’t think Chelli saw him coming and he did what he was supposed to do, he took it to the net, and I don’t know how it went in but he snuck it underneath him some how,” said Boudreau on the Professor, who beat Atlanta goalie, Ondrej Pavelec (22 saves), via the five hole.

As I alluded to above, this was not the usual wide open, end-to-end hockey contest between the Caps and the Thrashers. Atlanta brought a simple game plan and intensity to this one but they still can’t knock off the Capitals. They are 0-5 against them this season.

“They play normally a very aggressive style like us but they’re battling for their playoff lives. I think they thought if we were going to go chance for chance than we have more scoring power than them so they can’t afford to do that. They were smart, John [Anderson, Thrashers head coach] comes prepared,” said Boudreau on Atlanta’s style of play in game five of their six game regular season series.

With only 42 shots on goal total and numerous whistles, Boudreau said there were 44 of those in the first two periods alone, this one had a post season feel to it.

“I thought it was a playoff game, it was tense and there wasn’t a lot of shots but those are the hardest games to play…we beared down and proved we could play defensive when we want and had to and tonight was one of those nights,” added a pretty satisfied coach on his club’s effort on Thursday night.

Varlamov seems to be gaining ground fast in the goaltending competition and he was very solid tonight stopping Maxim Afinogenov on a breakaway in period one and making a few other key saves on quality chances by Atlanta, including one from Tobias Enstrom from the slot. I can’t remember a single rebound that was put in harm’s way in this game by #40 and he just looked very confident between the pipes, despite some iffy plays, at times, by defensemen not named Green.

“Great confidence boost for him. He hadn’t won in awhile. Held them to one goal. It was a tough one that beat him. I didn’t they think had a great many chances but the ones they had were good ones and he was up to the task,” remarked the coach who rode Varlamov in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I know it’s probably tough for goalies to go in and out of the lineup like that. We see how hard he works in practice and he’s ready to play. Tonight, when he needed to make a big save he did and that motivates us to play harder,” added Mike Knuble on the play of Varly.


Now about those other defensemen. Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn gave a textbook demonstration on how NOT to play a 2 on 2 break and the decision to jump in the air for the puck in the first period by #3 allowed Afinogenov to get his breakaway. Sometimes I wonder what Poti is thinking out there? Joe Corvo was abused badly by Enstrom and it led to a great scoring chance in the slot. Also, I felt that Jeff Schultz continues to struggle a bit with his decision making and lack of speed. How do we get back the pre-March version of #55? Only the combined mental mistakes by #3 and #26 cost Washington a goal though.


“We just got pulled over to the boards a little bit. It was a give and go and I didn’t think it was necessary for Tom [Poti] to come that far across and the guy jumped behind him and got a play,” commented Boudreau on a terrible defensive play by both Poti and Morrisonn.


Washington only had 20 shots and a big reason for that is the forwards seem to be stuck in “Drop Pass City” right now. There are too many cross-ice and back pass attempts when a simple shot and then a drive to the net for a rebound would be more appropriate and effective. The perfect case in point was the sequence in the second period where Backstrom made a nice play in the offensive zone, peeled off looking to pass, and dropped it for Ovechkin (1 assist), who was opened up for a one-timer. The problem was that play had to be timed perfectly to work and when the Great #8 fumbled the puck in his skates, he tripped Afingenov, who did sell it pretty well too. What Alexander the Great should have been doing was driving to the net and the super Swede could have then fired one on goal and hopefully off of Pavelec’s pads for a rebound.


One of the reasons Ovechkin is stuck in the mid-40’s in goals is because he is not going to the net to get the tap-ins that he has tallied on in the past (see OT winner vs. Montreal on 1/31/2008). In addition, Ovie is becoming very predictable with his moves. He is getting the puck in the neutral zone and then cutting laterally across the blue line and time after time he is being met by a wall of defenders that would make the Redcoats in the Revolutionary War proud. This same move continues to lead to turnovers or poke checks that send the Caps back into the neutral zone or forced to defend an odd man rush. Simply put, the ultra strong and powerful Ovechkin needs to do what he has done in the past and used a couple of times on Thursday: either drive hard to the outside and around the defender or make a head fake, take one stride max, and fire the biscuit on net using his opponent as a screen. I would prefer more of the former because he hasn’t used that technique too often lately and it would prevent the opposition blue liners from cheating positionally. Overall, the top line and whatever line Alexander Semin seems to be on has to get away from turnovers at the opponents blue line before the playoffs start. The Penguins feasted off of Washington turnovers in the final five games of last season’s second round playoff series.


I thought the hit by Colby Armstrong on Mathieu Perreault was downright dirty and #20 has a reputation for doing these things. It was far worse than what got Green suspended for three games back in January. The play, however, did not lead to a Washington power play as Morrisonn was called for roughing.


“It was a pretty clear, solid elbow to the face…It was flagrant, it was an elbow to the head,” said Boudreau on the dirty play by Armstrong.


Overall, despite some of the things I wasn’t too happy about, this was a major step in the right direction towards post season hockey for Boudreau’s crew tonight. Backstrom felt like things were good but he said there are still improvements that can be made.


“We were a little bit sloppy the last couple of games. I think we were better than the {few} games before. We still have some things to work on and get ready and work a little bit harder. We need to play better like {we played} earlier this season,” added #19, who notched his 30th goal of the season, which seemed to bring out a larger than normal celebration from one of the best centers in the league. Could Nicky have a bonus clause in his contract for hitting the 30 mark?


Notes: The Caps will practice at 11am on Friday at Kettler Ice Plex and then head to Columbus for a date with the Blue Jackets on Saturday night…Dave Steckel was 11-3 on face-offs, including a clean win with 12 seconds left that allowed Green to easily wheel the puck around the boards and run out the clock…the Caps were 32-28 overall from the dot (Backstrom was 6-11)…Washington only received one power play and failed to score while the Thrashers went 0 for 3…Rookie defenseman John Carlson missed the game with an injury.


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Neuvirth Leads Caps to 13th Victory In A Row

Posted on 06 February 2010 by Ed Frankovic

With the Caps 12 game winning streak on the line, goalie Michal Neuvirth, who was in goal for three of the previous 12 victories, was recalled from Hershey to play against the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday with Jose Theodore, who is 9-0 and at times has been incredible, needing a contest off with Washington scheduled to play four games in six nights. After giving up a shaky goal just 2:46 in, the 21 year old goalie shut the door on the Thrashers until the Washington offense got untracked and the Capitals rolled in the third period to a 5-2 victory to make it #13. They will go for another club record 14th straight victory on Sunday at Noon at the Verizon Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC, weather permitting.

Washington is now 40-12-6 overall and have a three point lead for the President’s Trophy over the San Jose Sharks, who have a game in hand. With New Jersey’s come from behind victory in Toronto on Friday, the Caps still lead the Eastern Conference by 12 points.

Here are the highlights, quotes, some neat statistics courtesy of the Caps outstanding Media Relations Department, and analysis of another Caps victory:

Goaltending: GM George McPhee and Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau continue to get top notch net minding, for the most part this season. Whether it has been Semyon Varlamov, Theodore, or Neuvirth, major credit has to go to Boudreau for picking the correct one to play each night and also to first year Caps goalie coach Arturs Irbe. Irbe has done whatever has been needed to get the “next goalie up” ready to go when the current hot one either gets injured (which has been the primary case) or has an off night, or needs a rest.

“I have never seen a team without great goaltending. If you don’t have good goaltending streaks don’t happen,” confirmed Boudreau when the topic of his super goaltending was brought up and its impact on the team.

Neuvirth (43 saves) was outstanding tonight, and as he said after the game, he got better and better as the contest went on. The only other goal he gave up was fluky as he actually stopped a shorthanded breakaway by Rich Peverly with just under seven minutes remaining, but Alexander Semin, who had the giveaway that led to the scoring chance, crashed into his own keeper and kicked the puck into the goal.

“Neuvirth played fabulous. [In the 2nd period] They got their legs and we couldn’t meet their push and that is when we needed the goalie to be really good and he was really good,” added Boudreau on #30, who has stopped 110 of 114 shots in his last three games, including 22 alone in period two on Friday.

“For the most part we did a good job of boxing guys out, let him see the puck on the power plays. We didn’t have too many guys in front of the net. I don’t think screens weren’t too much of a problem for him. That was a big key. He made some huge saves for us in there and that’s what it takes. The depth of the team starts from the goalie out and it’s been working good lately, so hopefully it keeps going,” said forward Jason Chimera, who was injured on a Todd White hit in the second period but returned late in the middle frame and then went on to have a monster third period, including notching the 4th goal on a pretty top shelf shot.

“I thought we played pretty good considering we took four or five penalties with a five-on-three.  I thought we outplayed them in the second [period], they just had the key goal to make it 2-1.  You give these guys an inch, they’ll take a mile with how skilled they are.  They scored on their two-on-one, they took advantage of their chances.  We had a ton of shots, their goalie played really well and seemed to handle everything,” said the Thrashers Peverley on Neuvirth and the Caps.

Sloppy Caps Play: Boudreau wasn’t totally happy after this one because his team, for the third straight game, gave up too many shots (45) and endured stretches where they were dominated, but luckily bailed out by their goalies. Washington is taking too many penalties in spurts and they took two in the second half of a period two that was all Atlanta. The Caps relied on the hot goaltending early on and then turned up the heat in the final stanza in a formula that has been followed pretty much all week. The coach cited lack of practice time as a reason for getting away from their system but he also pointed out the other teams are highly motivated to knock off the Caps and end their winning streak.

“That’s the trend, but there’s also the trend that we are giving up a lot of shots lately.  I mean we gave 40 shots up. It’s going to be tough to continue doing this at this rate. We need to get back out of our sloppiness, because I thought we were pretty sloppy again. It’s systems and groove.  The effort is there, the guys want to win more than anything, that’s why they come out in the third period and they’re pretty well in control so far in the third period. You don’t realize how hard it is to win, it’s difficult to stay at a pace when every team you’re playing, is coming at you in waves because they’re the ones that want to end it. The reason winning streaks are tough is because you have to be at the top of your game all the time and when you go back-to-back games it’s tough.  It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.” finished the 2007-08 Jack Adams Trophy winner, pointing out that Washington played on Thursday while Atlanta waited for the Caps to return from New York.

Bruce is right, the team has developed some bad habits but with the compressed schedule it is tough to find time to work on things. Effort is not the problem and because of Washington’s great skill plus the super goaltending, they have been able to overcome their mistakes and keep the streak going. 

“Quite honestly, I don’t want to sound like I’ve been around the block a lot, but [the streak] doesn’t mean that much to me. Maybe next time we lose two in a row it will be ‘Holy smokes, how did we do that?’, but right now that game is over let’s focus on what we have, four games to the break, the guys are tired, let’s get to Sunday and then generate enough energy for the three games on the road,” said Boudreau on his and the team’s mindset as the Winter Olympic break approaches.

Offense Delivers in Crunch Time: NHL scoring leader, Alexander Ovechkin, had another ho-hum two point night scoring the first goal and then setting up Nicklas Backstrom’s tally that made it 2-1. But what was even more impressive was that once again at the start of the third period this team struck like sharks in blood invested waters with a couple of daggers that turned a close game into one with a decided outcome. Brooks Laich took a breakout pass from Shaone Morrisonn and made a great play to set up Semin for an easy goal and then just 68 seconds later Chimera got his tally on an odd man rush. Washington’s winning streak has seen the Caps outscore opponents 62-29 (not including the goal awarded for winning a shootout in the first game of the streak). Also in the streak the Caps:

  • have been held to three goals just twice and allowed as many as three goals just four times
  • have had power-play goals in all but two games in the streak
  • have outscored opponents 28-6 in the third period

Backstrom Leaves & Doesn’t Return: Perhaps the most important news of the night was that Backstrom left the game after two periods and did not return. #19 is a critical piece to this team but he does have a history with migraines. The good news is Backstrom is okay and will be able to play against the Penguins. Brian McNally of the DC Examiner talked to Backstrom and he said Nicky told him he was suffering from a headache.

“I thought he was just sick, I don’t know, I thought it was just flu-ish. He didn’t want to go on the ice with no energy, not be able to back check. [Trainer Greg Smith] Smitty told me on the bench at the start of the third period he was feeling better and would be okay for Sunday,” responded Boudreau when McNally presented him with the information he received from Backstrom.

Notes: Mike Green returned from suspension and had an empty net goal (13th of year for #52) to seal the deal in the last two minutes… Tom Poti (+1 in 23:27 of ice time) had another super game on defense, he is playing his best hockey as a Capital right now…Defenseman Karl Alzner played tonight but his broken stick helped lead to the first goal. He did pick up a plus on Backstrom’s goal and was even in just over 12 minutes of ice time…Tyler Sloan (healthy) and Brian Pothier (hand) were scratched on defense while Quintin Laing was once again the forward scratch…The Caps are now 22-3-3 at home and are 14-6-2 when the opposition scores first this season. Both stats lead the NHL and no team has won at least half of its games after giving up the first tally..Boudreau on the prospect of the Penguins coming in and ending Washington’s win streak: “Well you are playing against the Stanley Cup champions, I don’t know, but I gotta believe, that even if they say we are not a big rival for them, they would take an awful lot of pleasure by beating us in our building so it will be a big one.”…The Penguins are in Montreal on Saturday afternoon so who knows if they will even be able to fly in to DC on Saturday evening making Sunday’s contest a major question mark?…The Caps are 6-0-1 when they give up 40 or more shots but Boudreau won’t want to hear that stat..Eric Fehr was -2 and Brendan Morrison was -1 on Friday, #16 struggled, especially in his own zone in the first period…Washington was 1 for 5 on the power play and failed to score again on a two man advantage..the Thrashers went 0 for 3 with the man advantage.

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Caps Bury Avs, 6-1, Green Injured

Posted on 15 December 2009 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals went in to Denver on Tuesday night to take on the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center and they rolled to a 6-1 victory. Unfortunately the Caps had some more injuries as Shaone Morrisonn left after just 4:12 of ice time and then Mike Green was run into the glass on a cheap shot by David Koci. #52 hit his head hard, was cut, and did not return.

Washington pushes its league leading point total to 48 with a 21-7-6 overall record. Colorado is one of the biggest surprises in the league this season and they came in to this one on top of the Northwest Division with 44 points, although second place Calgary with 42 points had three games in hand. Jose Theodore was the victor (27 saves) in net for Washington against one of his old teams while former Florida Panthers goalie Craig Anderson, who came in to this one as a major reason for the turnaround in the Mile High city with a 16-7-5 record, took the loss for the Avs.

Here is the period by period and post game play and analysis:

End of 1st period: Caps 2, Avs 0

In his first NHL game, on his birthday, and on his initial NHL shift Kyle Wilson sets up Eric Fehr for a right wing blast and when Anderson couldn’t handle the rebound Tomas Fleischmann banged it home for a 1-0 Caps lead. Wilson almost got his first NHL goal on the very next shift but missed a wraparound try after a nice move down the left wing boards.

Theodore would be tested at the 12 minute mark with Chris Stewart all alone in front but #60 stayed his ground and stopped him. Washington promplty went the other way as Wilson was sprung for a breakaway but Anderson stoned him as Brett Clark appeared to trip #57 and he crashed into the Avs goalie, no call though.

Lots of end to end flow in this one and finally the Avs obtain the first power play as Brooks Laich is called for boarding Darcy Tucker with 5:15 left in the opening stanza. Washington would kill this penalty no problem and then Karl Alzner, freshly recalled from Hershey, backhanded the puck out of the Caps zone right to Nicklas Backstrom. #19, who seems to have eyes in the back of his head, sprung Alexander Ovechkin on a two on one with Mike Knbule and the Great #8 made a super pass to #22 and he beat Anderson on the backhand.

The Caps nearly went up 3-0 but Laich’s apparent goal on a Semin rebound was deemed to have been kicked in, although it was very close. #21 appeared to be trying to stop the puck with his skate and it was close to being on the ice but because it came up slightly off of the surface there was no joy for Washington.

On the ensuing shift Fehr was whistled for holding putting the very fast Avs back on the man advantage.  The Caps did a nice job killing the majority of this one and 23 seconds will remain on the board to start period two.

Overall, this was another very good period by Washington, other than the two penalties. Now the big question, can they keep it up in period two? All season long the Caps have typically come out hot in period one but rarely have they blown any team out. I have seen the Avalanche play several times this year and a two goal deficit is nothing for them. Also, the home squad is used to the thin Colorado air while the DC crew will have to learn to deal with it and potential fatigue as this one goes on. By the way, Alzner is a +2 in his first period back and his seemingly simple but important backhanded pass to Backstrom set up the sequence that would lead to Knuble’s tally.

End of 2nd period: Caps 5, Avs 0

Colorado nearly scored as the Fehr penalty expired and Paul Stastny had #60 beat but his backhander missed the cage. Washington would get a three goal lead as Chris Clark and Matt Bradley totally outworked the Avs on the left wing boards and when #10 fired a hard shot that Anderson could not handle, Dave Steckel put it in the net for his 2nd goal of the season. That was a text book hard working tally there.

A brutal Jeff Schultz giveaway leads to a Colorado chance for Cory McLeod but he crashes into Theo before Green inadvertently puts the puck in his own net so the goal was correctly waved off. The Caps took advantage of the good fortune as Wilson stole an errant John-Michael Liles breakout pass and he fed Flash for a tap in to make it 4-0. Wilson is having a great debut. It appears GM George McPhee and Head Coach Bruce Boudreau have timed another Hershey call up perfectly.

Hard work continued to pay off for Washington and the fourth line as Bradley made it a blowout at 5-0 by banking one off of Anderson’s pads from below the goal line. #10, #39, and #17 were relentless in their pressure on Colorado’s defense there and they were rewarded once again.

Bad things then happened as Green was run hard into the boards by David Koci and it was a total cheap shot. John Erskine stepped in and took on Koci while #52 laid on the ice after hitting the rock hard Colorado glass. Caps fans have to hope Green did not suffer a concussion on that play. Erskine was given two for instigating, five for fighting, and a 10 minute misconduct while Koci was given five for boarding, five for fighting, and a game misconduct.

A great period for Washington until the cheap shot on Green. With Erskine out for 17 minutes in penalties, Green out with an injury (he was reportedly bleeding), and Shaone Morrisonn gone since the first period, likely due to injury, the Caps only have 3 defenseman left in the game until #4 comes out of the box (Alzner, Schultz, and Tom Poti). Brendan Morrison took some shifts on D on the power play at the end of period two but expect Laich to go back and play defense in this final period. Green has been getting run alot lately and on Sunday in this blog I suggested the idea of adding an enforcer with the freed up salary cap dollars that GMGM now has available.

End of 3rd Period: Caps 6, Avs 1

The big story in the third period was the lack of defensemen on the Washington bench and matters got worse when Poti took a delay of game penalty. But the Caps killed it off with Alzner and Schultz taking some longer than normal shifts. When Semin was called for a holding penalty, Washington went shorthanded again and the Avs scored to make it 5-1. Colorado then received their third power play of the period as Schultz was whistled for cross-checking as T.J. Galiardi scored their first goal (and Boudreau did not like the call and let the officials know that). The Avs nearly scored again but Theo did a nice job of holding the left post on a stuff attempt.

Erskine would return with roughly six minutes remaining and when Adam Foote was called for interference on Laich (and I thought it was more of a rough) the Caps made it 6-1 when Backstrom received a tap-in set up by Fehr and Poti with 2:36 remaining.

Here is the post game analysis:

Washington played an outstanding road game tonight by creating turnovers and limiting their mistakes. They also took advantage of an off night by Anderson in goal for Colorado. Wilson had quite a birthday night playing in his first NHL game and adding two assists in 11:15 of ice time. My guess is he won’t feel so bad shelling out a bunch of money at the team dinner that the Caps rookies will pay for on Wednesday night. McPhee and Boudreau consistently do a good job of finding the right player to call up from Hershey when one is needed and tonight it was #57’s time to shine.

The Caps are now 6-0 with Alzner in the line-up and as I mentioned above, his simple play on the second goal will not show up on the score sheet but it set up the whole sequence. King Karl was +2 in 21:35 of ice time.

Erskine had a big night on defense as well going +3 and taking on Koci after the cheap shot on Green. #4 played 17:11 despite having to sit in the penalty box for 17 minutes.

All season long the debate has raged on about whether Washington needs an enforcer or not. Would one sitting on the Caps bench have prevented Koci from running Green? Nobody knows for sure. Do suspensions deter these type of hits? Nobody knows that for sure either. There is not a clear cut argument on either side and this debate has been going on alot this year, especially on Hockey Night in Canada Radio, and it isn’t just about fighting, it is about the on or over the edge type of play that goes on in games today. There has been talk that coaches should be held accountable in the way the game is played because they can threaten 3rd and 4th line guys with a roster spot if they don’t play that type of style. Is that true? Once again, nobody knows for sure. Anyways, I am going to leave you with 3 stories tonight, two of which I’ve heard on HNIC recently and the third from Comcast analyst Craig Laughlin from his playing days (he told this story several years ago on the air).

First the Laughlin story: The Caps were in Philadelphia and #18 went in and hit star Flyers defenseman Mark Howe into the boards. On Laughlin’s next shift he was lining up for a face-off and out skated Philly enforcer Dave Brown. Brown says to Laughlin, “You will never hit Mark Howe again.” Laughlin’s response: “Okay.” So Joe Beninati then asks Locker if he ever hit #2 again, and Craig starts laughing and says “No!”

The next story comes from a discussion between former Penguins/Oilers forward Craig Simpson and former Islanders/Kings/Rangers goalie Glen Healy. Simpson and Healy were asked recently on HNIC if the dirty hits that go on in the game now went on back when they played and the answer was a resounding Yes! Both said that the big reason was the lack of video coverage of games, especially on the west coast. Simpson and Healy said if a game got out of hand in a place like LA then guys would take runs at each other because they knew the entire East Coast and NHL office were asleep and they would have no way of seeing the coverage until at least the next day and sometimes not at all. Nowadays any cheap shot or hit ends up on YouTube nearly instantaneously. Simpson also said that Marty McSorley would routinely make it known to the opposition that he would run roughshod over their skill players should Wayne Gretzky be touched by anyone.

Finally, this one came last week on HNIC about a particular game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks. Resident Vancouver tough guy Gino Odjick was making a habit of roughing up and running Leafs forward Doug Gilmour throughout the first part of a particular contest and Toronto captain Wendel Clark, who basically ate rocks for breakfast, had seen enough. So the next time Pavel Bure of the Canucks is lining up for a face-off #17 skates out next to #10 and says, “If you don’t get Odjick to stop that crap then you are going out of here on a stretcher.” I don’t remember Bure being carted off so I assume the message was received. It should be pointed out though that Clark, even though he was as tough as nails, could also play so he was not a 10 minutes or less a night guy.

Anyways, this debate will continue to rage on and if there was an easy answer I would bottle it and sell it. The emotion in me, especially when I see a thug like Koci take out a star player like Green, is to retaliate eye-for-eye style. But does getting an enforcer who will only play 8 minutes a night make sense? I don’t know but most nights I could make the argument that some forward, regardless of their toughness quotient, plays less than 10 minutes anyways. That is just the nature of the game with all of the power play situations that occur in most contests. McPhee likes to point to Detroit and their lack of a tough guy last season (although Aaron Downey did fill that role on many nights) but the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins still have Eric Godard in their line-up during the regular season this year like they did in 2008-09. But Godard did not play at all in the post season. GMGM said in training camp that you need an enforcer for 10 games a year. McPhee also said he did not want to spend over $1M for that type of guy (and that made sense given Washington’s salary cap situation plus the number of minutes a game that type of player would contribute). The question now is, given some of the shenanigans we’ve been seeing lately against the Caps players combined with the extra cap room, does the team add some toughness for protection to get through the regular season?

Programming Note: I will be on live with Drew Forrester at 930am on Wednesday on the Comcast Morning Show. Listen live on 1570 AM in Baltimore or anywhere else via WNST.NET (just click the Listen Live button).

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Brady Anderson weighs in on Angelos’ reputation

Posted on 02 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a little while since I’ve spoken with Brady Anderson but the last time we chatted we had a very spirited debate regarding Peter Angelos’ contributions to Baltimore sports.

Today, Anderson wrote an op-ed piece for The Baltimore Sun.

Clearly, a lot has changed since Brady Anderson rolled his roller blades through the droves of people who gathered at the Inner Harbor every day for Orioles games back in the halcyon days of Camden Yards and competitive baseball.

And let’s be honest: Angelos trumped his own general manager 10 years ago when he gave Anderson a $30 million contract. Brady has millions and millions of reasons to be loyal to Angelos.

But, nontheless, it’s an interesting read.

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Unleash the fury…Harry Kalas and other “non-radio” tidbits

Posted on 29 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

First, I hope Ray Bachman has fun doing the show from 2 til 6 today. (He won’t admit it, but he really loves talking sports and doing the show. And he loves when I’m not there.)

I’m having a “business/strategy” day of respite and I’ve been catching up on sports since 11 p.m. last night when Bruce Springsteen walked off the stage at the Spectrum. (Set list here…)

I watched the Washington Caps win Game 7 on the DVR but only after someone in my life who will remain “unnamed” wrecked my evening by texting me the result while Springsteen was in the middle of singing “She’s The One.” (MAKE A NOTE OF THIS: DO NOT EVER TEXT YOUR FRIENDS A SCORE!!!! A simple, “Hey dude…do you want to know who’s winning?” would suffice. And, honestly, with the score of any game in the universe a click away on my phone why would I want you to wreck my midnight viewing by texting me the result. It’s just unacceptable!)

But, I digress…

Alas, I did watch the game in its entirety this morning (and it’s NOTHING like not knowing the result) and the Capitals are as lucky to be headed to the second round as the Ravens were to escape Nashville three months ago. That third period was amazing and the vibe at the phonebooth looked electric. I missed a pretty special evening, but these are the decisions and memories you create.

(Gotta admit, when Springsteen played “Fire” by request last night and was rocking “Land of Hope and Dreams” I wasn’t thinking about the Caps. And I had no idea someone would send me a random “Caps win” text.)

There’s nothing better in professional sports than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. Last night’s win was a memorable evening. These are the games the Caps have consistently lost for a whole generation.

As for the sport itself, I even got a few emails this morning from former “doubters” who watched last night’s game and are more “believers” than they were 24 hours ago. Hockey kinda does that to you.

I saw Brent Harris at Ravens Camp on Sunday. His beard is scraggly. The Comcast Sportsnet/Caps promotion for the beardathon is great. I wish I had participated in someway but I look beyond crappy with a beard. (Insert joke here…)

I’m monitoring the Orioles today as well. Mora comes back, gets three hits and Adam Eaton looked, well, like Adam Eaton and his 7.17 ERA. Let’s see how Koji Uehara does against the Halos.


One other note, my pal who is a Philadelphia sports fan dropped this one on me this morning:

Here’s his running commentary:

“The biggest mistake the Orioles ever made was getting rid of Jon Miller. What I’ve realized through this whole Harry Kalas thing is how badly they messed that up. Baltimore had its Harry Kalas and Angelos chased him off.

“The players all come and go. Harry Kalas is something that can’t be replaced by Mike Schmidt or Steve Carlton. He’ll live longer than Dutch Daulton or Lenny Dykstra or Curt Schilling. They’re all gone. Harry was eternal. I’ve got Harry Kalas on my ipod, man!

“Jon Miller should have been the Orioles announcer until he chose to die in the broadcast booth. Those days are done. Miller is the last of those radio guys.

(My pal didn’t mention Chuck Thompson, but I will…and Eckman and Steadman and all of those guys who Baltimore loved with their Orioles and Colts and Bullets and Clippers and horse racing and crab cakes.)

“No one listens to baseball anymore on the radio anymore. Kalas was only doing one inning a night on radio. He’d do the first three innings of TV, only fourth inning on radio and then the 8th and 9th on TV. Kalas was bigger than the radio or the TV. He was eternal.

“That’s the biggest mistake. No matter what happens to Nick Markakis or what he ever does, Jon Miller would’ve been there before him and after him.

“When you’ve got him, you’re guaranteed to have an ambassador for your team.”

Amen, Philly friend. Amen.

Clearly, Peter Angelos didn’t see it that way. And his vote was the only one that counted.

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Ravens and their “Cap” might not fit Ray’s head now

Posted on 04 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

As Silent-Ray (Day 6) rolls on, the Ravens are moving about the business of trying to find players, draft players and prepare for the 2009 team.  That would be with — or without — Ray Lewis.

The Ravens are still banking on the fact that no one else in the league wants Ray Lewis at the rate they’re willing to pay him in Baltimore.  They might be right.  They probably ARE right, in fact.

Remember, though, as I’ve said all along during this process, it only takes one team to screw it up for the Ravens.  It could be ANY team in the league throwing Ray a cash-bone.  That wouldn’t mean Ray would go play in Detroit, for example, but any offer that rivals or trumps the one in Baltimore would be a problem for the Ravens when you look at their cap situation, which I’ve chronicled below.

And if you’re sitting there right now saying, “no team in the league is going to pay for a 34-year old linebacker in the late November of his career,” might I remind you – gently – that the Minnesota Vikings could have been thinking that on Tuesday about their free-agent, soon-to-be-33-year old center, Matt Birk.  The only problem with that thought?  Birk’s in Baltimore and the Ravens might be the “one team” willing to pay him as much or more than the Vikings.

I can hear them now in Minnesota:  “It only takes one team.”  Followed by: “Yeah, but no one in the league wants an 11-year veteran center who still thinks he’s worth a lot of money.”

Tell that to Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta.

Ray’s still holding out hope he can find that “one team” to upset the apple cart.  I’m fairly certain he’s trying to do that today, in fact, in concert with his agent, David Dunn.

Now, on to the other major issue facing the Ravens:  The salary cap.

As I wrote last week – and fielded a bunch of “expert” criticism from folks who thought my numbers were wrong (they weren’t) – the Ravens are running short on salary cap dough.

After last week’s signing of Domonique Foxworth, and the restricted free agent tenders to Landry, Koch and Williams, Baltimore’s available cap space is now a hair over $10 million for the 2009 season.  And, yes, before you ask — that INCLUDES the additional $4 million given to all the teams last week.

With roughly $10.1 million remaining to be spent, what do the Ravens do?

They can still part company with Samari Rolle and save themselves about $2 million in ’09.  They wouldn’t have to pay him the $4.1 million they owe him but there’d be a couple million in “dead money” to deal with on the ’09 cap.

Rolle spoke out last weekend about “wanting his release” from the club.  Based on every nickel counting at this point – cap wise – that might not be a bad thing.  No one else on the club is really expendable, cap-wise, without major dead-money weight to deal with in ’09 and ’10.  Willie Anderson would save them about $3 million and some change if they axe him, but the Ravens were extremely pleased with him last season and probably aren’t interested in moving him on at this point.

If you don’t think future “dead money” is something to concern yourself with, remember that this year’s cap – 2009 – features nearly $12 million in dead-money, courtesy of bonus monies paid out to Ogden, McNair and McAlister in previous years.

Back to the original question:  What are the Ravens going to do with this $10 million they have left to spend?

It appears as if the Ravens will need about $3.5 million to spend on their ’09 college draft picks.

That leaves roughly $6.5 million to spend on “players”, aka free-agents.

News item:  I’m not sure who in Baltimore first floated this mysterious $17 million guarantee/$24 million offer for Ray Lewis, but I don’t think it’s accurate.  It can’t be.  Unless the Ravens are just going to give Ray the remaining $6.5 million for 2009, somehow.  I haven’t had this confirmed by anyone in Owings Mills yet, but I’m willing to bet the Ravens’ original offer of $12mm up front and $18 million total is still their working number.  I’ll report back if I have that confirmed…or, if I’m wrong, even.

$6.5 million left to spend, give or take a hundred grand or two.  Matt Birk might eat up 75% of that today.

Where, then, would that leave Ray?  Is that original Ravens’ offer still on the table?  The Ravens are telling me “yes, absolutely.”  In fact, if history serves me correctly, I think the only offer the Ravens ever removed from the table was when Gary Baxter jerked them around four years ago and they just said, “Enough is enough…we’re haggling with a dude who is basically an average player at best.”  And, of course, off Baxter went to Cleveland for big money…but he never even approached “average” in a Browns uniform.  He was terrible there and the Ravens, it turned out, were right on that one.

Ray Lewis wants his money.  The Ravens are running out of it.

$6.5 million to spend.

It’s not a lot of cash.

Not in the NFL, at least.

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Caps Beat Bruins , 4-3 in OT (Updated with Post Game Analysis)

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Ed Frankovic

The top two teams in the Eastern Conference faced off for their last meeting in the regular season at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston and the game lived up to the hype going into overtime for the second straight time. Alexander Semin, who has really been performing at a top level lately and has one of the best shots in the NHL, blasted one past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas from outside the blue line to give Washington the win just 23 seconds into overtime, a 4-3 victory.

Washington jumped out quickly to an early 1-0 lead on Nicklas Backstrom’s 17th goal of the season at 3:36 of the first period on a rebound of a Semin shot when they broke in three on two on the power play with defenseman Mike Green. But shortly thereafter the Bruins answered back on Matt Hunwick’s fifth goal of the season off of a pretty pass from Marc Savard, who was questionable coming into to Saturday afternoon’s contest (shoulder). After the early fireworks the play settled down with Washington carrying much of the play, outshooting the Bruins 12-9 in the opening period.

The second period started like the first ended, a tight checking affair, but Washington then took the lead for the second time in the game at 8:48. Defenseman Milan Jurcina did a great job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone after some great cycling by Washington tired Boston out and he fed the pass to Matt Bradley who quickly gave it to Alexander Ovechkin, who was tapping his stick calling for the puck, and the Great #8 snapped a beauty by Thomas. But as they did in the first period, the Bruins struck back quickly, this time only 18 seconds later, when Washington defenseman Tom Poti misplayed a puck giving the Bruins a two on one break against Shaone Morrisonn who allowed Savard to pass the puck to an all alone streaking Phil Kessel, who easily put the puck past Jose Theodore.

The play opened up from there (Boston outshot Washington 13-12 in the 2nd period) and Theodore made his best save of the game on Patrice Bergeron when #37 appeared to have an easy open net goal on a three on two rush only to see #60 slide over and make the save. Then it was Thomas’ turn as he stopped Brooks Laich on a clean breakaway. After two periods it was two all.

In the third period the Caps received their fourth power play of the day and they got lucky, much like Boston did to win the game the last time the two teams met in Beantown. Washington took their third straight lead of the game on a goal by Tomas Fleischmann, who was trying to pass back door to Ovechkin, only to see the puck hit a Bruins skate and go between Thomas’ legs for a 3-2 Caps lead with just 2:20 gone. Shortly thereafter Washington almost went up by two goals when Eric Fehr broke in all alone on a breakaway but Thomas robbed him and then miraculously got his skate on the rebound while Fehr crashed into the boards and appeared to be in terrible pain when shown on the bench.

With the Caps clinging to the lead they reverted to some bad habits and started amassing penalties again and with Backstrom taking a hook at 14:52, after Washington had just killed off an interference call on Laich, Zdeno Chara tied to the game on a sharp angle shot that Theodore would like to have back as it squeezed under his right arm. Down the stretch both goalies made some good saves before the game headed to extra time.

Notes: The Florida Panthers, who will play the Caps on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center at 3pm, were drilled, 7-2, by the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon. Craig Anderson played in net for Florida on Saturday so the Caps can expect to get goalie Tomas Vokoun. Washington is now 15 points ahead of the Panthers in the Southeast Division going into tomorrow’s game. They trail the Bruins by eight points in the Eastern Conference but are only up two points on the Devils for second place.

Post Game Analysis: This was a very big win for the Caps as they went 3-0-1 against the Bruins this season. Theodore was very good for the most part but he did give up a goal to Chara that he should have had, but he made numerous huge stops today. I am pretty tired about hearing, as JP at Japers Rink is also based on his posts, that the Caps can’t win the Stanley Cup with #60 in net. The list of dissenters include Craig Simpson, Neil Smith, and Elliott Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada Radio and Matthew Barnaby of ESPN, just to name some of the critics. I haven’t heard him say it yet, but I have a feeling that Kelly Hrudey, the best analyst on Hockey Night in Canada Radio, thinks that Theo can do it (Hrudey helped Theodore resurrect his career last season in Colorado). I happen to think the Caps can win the Stanley Cup with Theodore in net assuming GM George McPhee adds some defensive help (I want Karl Alzner up now to prepare for the playoffs and another physical defenseman added at the trade deadline- Chris Pronger??) because it seems that there continues to be defensive breakdowns with this current crew of blueliners. The second Boston goal was a colossal serious of mistakes that teams just can’t make in the post season.

With the Caps winning today and the Panthers losing I think Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau will, and should, play Michal Nuevirth in goal tomorrow. The Panthers are NOT catching the Caps and the last thing Washington needs is to wear Theodore out or risk an injury in back to back contests. Neuvirth has played well and #60 needs to be saved for the post season. I will be very surprised if you don’t see #30 in net for the Caps tomorrow.

Speaking of Hockey Night in Canada radio, several of the analysts are on the Devils bandwagon as the team they pick to win the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. With goalie Martin Brodeur back and looking strong it is a trendy pick but we still have Wednesday’s trade deadline that could help decide who has the most powerful team heading into the playoffs. The Caps actually match up well with New Jersey right now because the Devils are not big up front. Currently the Flyers are the one team the Caps don’t match up well with due to some of their bigger forwards like Scott Hartnell, Joffrey Lupul, and Jeff Carter. Throw in Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and a soon to be healthy Daniel Briere and you see why I don’t want the Caps to have to face Philadelphia in the second round or beyond (they won’t have to play them in the first round because the Flyers are finishing fourth overall while the Caps will be in the top 3).

Michael Nylander was once again a healthy scratch. Hopefully he is moved on Wednesday but I don’t see it happening due to his hefty salary plus he has two more years remaining on his contract.

Boston out shot the Caps 37-32 this afternoon. The Caps were 2 of 5 on the power play and the Bruins were 1 for 4. The Caps did a good job of staying out of the penalty box until the third period.

By the way, Semin has had a good year but it has been a rollercoaster (primarily due to injuries). However, the last five games or so he really looks like the guy who led the league in scoring the first month of this NHL season and was a big factor in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Semin has been strong on his skates and is back checking fairly well. He isn’t making the bad giveaway and even though he took a penalty today it wasn’t really awful, in fact, it was a very questionable call (but that is what you get in Boston from the zebras). If he plays like this consistently then the Caps will have to give him big money after next season before he becomes a free agent. He turns 25 years old on Tuesday and he continues to mature. Sergei Fedorov is a good influence and mentor for #28 and he needs that oversight right now. It is amazing how mature Ovechkin is at only 23 and he helps with Semin as well.

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