Tag Archive | "boudreau"

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Caps Look to Return to Form Against Devils

Posted on 10 November 2011 by Ed Frankovic

Coming off of their worst performance of the season, the Washington Capitals head into back to back contests with the New Jersey Devils this weekend looking to regain the effort and results that saw them race out to a 7-0 record to begin the 2011-12 campaign. Since that red hot start the team has gone 2-4. Game one is at “The Rock” on Friday night with Saturday’s tilt at the Verizon Center. The Devils are 7-5-1 overall and have won three games in a row.

The Caps are currently second in the NHL in goals per game averaging 3.77 (behind the Flyers) while the Devils are 23rd in the leauge at 2.31 goals per game. Washington’s problems have mostly come on the back end and they are allowing 2.92 goals per game (22nd in the NHL) while New Jersey is only yielding 2.69 (15th in the NHL).

New Jersey’s scoring leaders are the familiar Patrick Elias (13 points in 13 games), Ilya Kovachuk (9 points in 11 games) and Zach Parise (8 points in 13 games). Parise is back after suffering an early season knee injury last fall that wiped out the majority of his 2010-11 season. [FRIDAY UPDATE: Kovalchuk is out for the weekend with a lower body injury.]  On defense, new coach Peter DeBoer is relying heavily on Swedish rookie Adam Larsson, the 4th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The young man, who will turn 19 on Saturday, is leading the Devils defense in ice time logging 23:37 a night. New Jersey also has veterans Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov plus underrated Andy Greene on the blue line. In goal, 39 year old Martin Brodeur has won his last two starts after battling an upper body injury for most of the early part of the season. The other net minder is 38 year old journeyman Johan Hedberg, who is 5-3-1 this season.

After Tuesday’s clunker against the Stars, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau put his club through a grueling work out on Wednesday, which in hockey is affectionately known as the “bag skate.” Simply put, the Washington bench boss was disgusted with the lack of effort from his crew in their previous game and made them pay for it the next day. The energy was not there at all from the Capitals against a good Dallas team and they were beaten soundly. In addition to the lack of intensity, the Caps continued a recent pattern of poor d-zone coverage and displayed an inability to move the puck successfully out of their own end on numerous occassions. As chronicled here in this blog, the Mike Green ankle injury is a big one. #52 is Washington’s best defensemen and he has been called, for good reason, the “One Man Breakout.” There is a solid chance that “Game Over Greenie” will return on Friday, he participated in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. His place in the lineup hopefully will help a struggling Roman Hamrlik, who has been on the ice for more goals against than any other Capitals defenseman.

In order for the Capitals to win, whether Green is in the lineup or not, they need to get back to the type of hockey that works best for their personnel. That recipe for success is a commitment to getting the puck deep in their opponents end, then using their physical size in the cycle game down low to wear out the opposition. Boudreau has four good lines but on Tuesday the Caps forwards acted like the Stars defensemen had a case of the plague and failed to take the body like they need to do to generate chances. Alexander Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer are at their best with Nicklas Backstrom (19 points in 13 games) when they are playing physical. That top line, if paired together, needs to get back to that type of effort. Alexander Semin has been downright horrible in his last eight games and he must get more involved. He has played the “easy game” over that stretch, failing to go into traffic and take a hit or outwork defenders with his size and skill on the wall. You’ll know pretty quickly if the Caps are focused because you will see the puck going north-south instead of those lazy cross ice passes at the opponents blue line that often leads to big trouble.

For the Caps, I imagine the goaltending duties will be split this weekend. Michal Neuvirth was okay on Tuesday while Tomas Vokoun had a nightmare last start in Long Island on Saturday, allowing three softies.

Washington’s power play is ranked third in the league clicking at 25% while the penalty killing is 20th at 78.7%. Given the depth and size of the Washington squad, there is no doubt that they are at their best in five on five situations so it is imperative that the Caps move their feet and not take the lazy stick infractions that have been a problem over the last six contests.

 

Comments (2)

Stars Outwork and Embarrass Caps, 5-2

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stars Outwork and Embarrass Caps, 5-2

Posted on 08 November 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals six game home unbeaten streak came to a crashing halt on Tuesday night as the Dallas Stars came in to the Verizon Center and whipped the Caps, 5-2. The Stars got two early tallies from former Boston Bruins forward Michael Ryder and then Adam Burish, Jamie Benn, and Eric Nystrom scored in the third period. Michal Neuvirth (31 saves) took the loss in this one but he could pretty much sue for non support after this mess of a game. The Caps fall to 9-4 overall while the Stars are off to a great start at 11-3.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from what was easily Washington’s worst performance of the season:

- If Dr. Seuss were penning this blog this evening, he would only need to post three words: Stink. Stank. Stunk.

- Simply put, the Capitals were downright awful in this game. Their effort was lacking and it showed as they repeatedly were beaten to pucks, lost one on one battles, and were woefully out of position. Matt Hendricks was one of the few positives in this game as he worked hard all night, but when your best player is a guy who only had 12:19 of ice time and is a 4th liner, you know the rest of the guys were terrible.

- The problems for Washington start on the back end. The Caps are having trouble getting the puck out of their end with Mike Green out of the lineup. In addition, Roman Hamrlik has been struggling mightily and he was on for three of the five goals against. #44 looks slow and confused right now. On the game winner that came directly off of a faceoff just 24 seconds into period three, both he and John Carlson were two feet from each other in the corner leaving Nicklas Backstrom all alone in front. Carlson has been a victim of bad positioning too often this season. In addition, Jeff Schultz had a rough first period and his giveaway led to the first Dallas goal. Hamrlik and Schultz are not good skaters, and that is being kind, and teams are taking advantage of that right now. If Green can go this weekend against the Devils, that does change the dynamic since he will log 22 minutes or so, diminishing the amount of time some of the weaker d-men are on the ice.

- John Erskine was solid paired with Dennis Wideman in his third game back from shoulder surgery but he could be fined and/or suspended for an elbow he threw in the middle frame. If that happens and Green is not ready, then Dmitry Orlov could make his NHL debut on Friday night. At this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing the 2009 2nd round draft pick get a look because he can skate and move the puck and that is the area where Washington has struggled mightily since Green was injured.

- Despite all of the problems on the back end, the forwards were horrible too. There weren’t many hits and once again Alexander Semin took two careless stick penalties. The second one gave Dallas a power play and they scored to pretty much end this one at 4-2. #28 did have a nice goal off of a super feed from Backstrom, but overall he is flat out playing lazy. How much longer can the coaches and GM put up with these type of performances from him? In addition, the team captain was a non factor against a team he should dominate. Dallas is not a physical club but Alexander Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer need to have more than three hits each. Clearly, there was a lack of effort displayed in this tilt by Washington and Mike Knuble hinted at that after the second period in his interview with Craig Laughlin on Comcast.

“We came out with a little bit of a lack of intensity in the first period,” said #22, who after the game took those comments even further with some harsh words for his squad, “We look great when we’re all committed. We all look like a bunch of clowns when we don’t. Of late I don’t know if we’re all committed. It’s sad to say and we all look bad because of the result.” (h/t Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner).

- Knuble hit the nail on the head and things need to change because there is too much talent on this team to play this poorly. The Caps played about seven minutes of good, hard hockey late in period two to tie the game up, but you can’t win taking the rest of the contest off. I imagine Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau will have a hard practice tomorrow to send a message because his team needs that right now, especially given his post game quotes below:

“We were fortunate to be tied at the end of the first two periods. We talked about playing one good period [third period]. In the first 15 or 20 seconds [in the third period] they scored a goal. We’ve lost a lot of battles in the third periods [in] the last two games. The compete level wasn’t as great as we’d like it to be. We have to get stronger in that area. We have to start winning those battles. The one-on-one compete is something that you should be taking a lot of pride in. When you look at when we were winning, we were winning [those] battles. When you don’t win the one-on-one battles, you’re not going to succeed. It’s an individual type [effort], as far as wanting to win those one-on-one battles. You could see, we lost a battle on the first, second and third goal [tonight]. They outbattled us for pucks.”

Notes: The Caps play a home and home series with the Devils that starts at “The Rock” on Friday night…Keri Lehtonen (30 saves) didn’t have to work to hard for the win for Dallas…surprisingly, the Caps won the faceoff battle 41-26, but winning the draw didn’t translate into good results. On the GWG they won the faceoff but four seconds later the puck was in their own net…Neuvirth wasn’t really bad but he did get too aggressive at times and that cost him on some goals, especially Ryder’s second tally.

Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Soft Goals Cost Caps on Long Island

Posted on 05 November 2011 by Ed Frankovic

Tomas Vokoun has been very good this season and he has pretty much single handidly won some games for the Capitals early on. Tonight he basically lost the game for the Caps on Long Island letting in three soft tallies in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders. The game winner came from PA Parenteau (1 goal, two assists) with 1:46 to go as #29 allowed a point shot from former Capital Milan Jurcina to trickle through his pads and #15 tapped it home. It was a save Vokoun had to make and it cost Washington at least a point. The Capitals fall to 9-3 and lost to the Islanders in regulation for the first time since October of 2007.

Here are the highlights and analysis of a defeat that snaps the Caps 12 game regulation unbeaten streak (11-0-1) against the four time Stanley Cup Champion franchise:

- The Caps played a really solid first period and got goals from Joel Ward and Alexander Ovechkin en route to a 2-0 lead prompting Islander fans to call for goalie Rick Dipietro (25 saves) to be yanked from the cage. But Washington left their skating legs in the locker room for the middle frame and New York fired 15 shots on Vokoun. However, there weren’t too many quality ones and #29 gave up a terrible rebound on a Frans Nielsen shot and John Carlson didn’t do a good job of tying up #51, who put a weak backhander through the legs of the Caps cageminder to make it 2-1. Then with 3:05 left in the period Brian Rolston, who does have one of the hardest shots in the NHL, rifled one by Vokoun from the blueline. That made it 2-2 and gave the Isles momentum heading into the last 20 minutes.

- Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau shuffled his lines tonight after the success in Carolina on Friday night. Mathieu Perreault was inserted for Cody Eakin and the coach also broke up his very effective third line of Ward, Brooks Laich, and Jason Chimera. By the final frame Boudreau put that line back together and the Caps carried the opening five minutes of the third period before a Jeff Schultz turnover led to a Steve Staios point shot that was not handled cleanly by Vokoun. Matt Martin, who provided the initial screen and was not cleared out by Dennis Wideman (-4) then batted it home at 6:28. Ovechkin, who was all over the ice, drew a penalty on Staois and Laich tied it up a couple minutes later on the power play, with the Gr8 cutting across the crease, setting the stage for the tough loss.

- This was the first time all season that the Caps had to play back to back games and it really showed in the second period. The Islanders, who had lost six games in a row, started winning the battles to the loose pucks while Washington didn’t move their feet and did too much reaching with their sticks. In addition, the Capitals weren’t nearly as aggressive at getting to the front of the opponents net as they had done in their first 11 games.

- Backstrom (2 assists) and Ovechkin were the best Caps tonight and the Gr8 could’ve had more goals. On one sequence in the opening frame he totally undressed Mark Eaton but the puck rolled slightly on him and his shot in tight went out of play on DiPietro.  #19 is now 3rd in the NHL in scoring with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) in 12 games.

- In closing, despite the fact that the Caps lost their legs for stretches of this contest, they still should’ve won the game if their goaltender had turned in an average performance. It was not Vokoun’s night and he’s never won at Nassau Coliseum despite having a very good goals against average against the Islanders overall coming into this one. Bad nights are going to happen, we’ve seen some poor play from the 35 year old Czech goalie in spurts already, but for the most part he has been superb so the team nor Vokoun shouldn’t let one terrible performance upset the apple cart. After all, it is only November 5th, not April or May 5th.

Notes: Perreault was -3 and didn’t have his normal jump in this game…Alexander Semin had a good first period then faded into the abyss after that. Washington needs to find a way to get that guy going…the faceoff battle was tied at 25 each. Laich went 8-4 to lead the Caps…the Capitals went 1 for 3 officially on the power play but they only had 1:07 of man advantage time so that stat is misleading (a major boarding penalty to Parenteau combined with an Ovechkin rough and Ward trip caused that situation)…New York went 0 for 2 on the power play…the Caps next game is Tuesday at the Verizon Center against the Dallas Stars.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Caps Looking for Consistency After 9 Games

Posted on 30 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

After nine games into the season, the Washington Capitals sit at 7-2 and in a familiar spot, atop the Southeast Division. On the good side the Caps are leading the NHL in scoring with 3.78 goals per game and their overall net difference in goals for minus goals against is a league leading +12. However, a team that finished in the top four in the NHL in goals against last season, after Saturday night’s 7-4 defeat in Vancouver, has fallen into a tie for 15th in goals allowed per game at 2.56. In the 27 plus periods the Capitals have played they have been really good at times, bad at others, and downright ugly in limited spurts. Basically they’ve played what I will call Clint Eastwood hockey:  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Overall, one has to be pretty happy with this team. The off-season additions GM George McPhee made bringing in Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, and Jeff Halpern has given Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau four really good lines that at five on five have been quite dominant. On defense, free agent Roman Hamrlik has played very well with Mike Green when they’ve been paired together. In net, the steal of the summer, getting Tomas Vokoun for $1.5M, has been the biggest difference maker and despite a shaky first period last night, he is still 6-1 with a .932 save percentage.

Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are off to decent starts and the Gr8 has five goals and four assists while #19 has two goals and 10 assists. In addition, the Capitals power play is clicking at 25.7%, third in the NHL, and this is with top rearguard Mike Green missing the last two games, which no surprise have been losses (more on that in a minute). The addition of Hamrlik, not to mention that Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was finally able to put both Green and Dennis Wideman in the lineup for the first time since #6 was acquired at last February’s trade deadline, has allowed Boudreau and assistant coach Dean Evason to move Ovechkin off of the point on the power play, for the most part. Alexander the Great already has two power play goals, both coming in the slot, and his presence down low has opened up lanes for other Capitals to score goals in man advantage situations. This is definitely a big development that could bode well for the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs.

14 different Capitals players have scored a goal and a big reason for that is the depth of this team combined with a handful of forwards who have no problem going to the crease area to create traffic in front of opposing goaltenders. Brouwer, Ward, Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, Matt Hendricks, and even Mathieu Perreault have paid the price to get Washington the type of goals that help a team advance in the post season.

The good has clearly definitely outweighed the bad and the ugly combined, but if you asked anyone around the team, they would likely tell you that there are plenty of areas where this team can improve. Consistency is the word you’d hear most from the coaches and players as to what is needed, especially with a tough three game stretch this upcoming week (Anaheim at home on Tuesday then road games in Carolina and on Long Island on Friday and Saturday, respectively). Throughout the course of the opening nine games this team has tilted the ice on their opponents on several occassions, but when they’ve struggled it has mostly been due to penalty trouble and mental mistakes. Here are some of the things the team might be concerned about and looking to correct:

  • In the current two game slide the Capitals have allowed four power play goals in 13 opponent attempts and the Canucks game winner came just seconds after Ovechkin’s interference minor expired. First off, the team is taking way too many penalties. Yes, some of those likely were incorrect calls, but in Edmonton the Caps didn’t adjust their game when the zebras repeatedly called stick infractions. Without Green, the Washington defense is far LESS mobile. The absence of the “One Man Breakout” leads to more turnovers plus it puts slower players like Jeff Schultz and AHL call up Sean Collins on the ice more often. Green also had some nice chemistry going with Hamrlik and #44′s play has regressed with #52 out. The two time Norris Trophy finalist, who also does a decent job killing penalties, is hoping to return next weekend from an ankle injury.
  • As Alan May (@MayHockeyCSN) has diagrammed on Comcast a few times this year, the Capitals have been vulnerable to being beaten on the back side of their defensive zone coverage. On Saturday in Vancouver, the second Canucks goal illustrated that perfectly as John Carlson found himself totally out of position on the PK. #74, with his d-partner Karl Alzner battling along the boards, was all the way over at the faceoff dot instead of being closer to the front of the net. That gave Chris Higgins the ability to receive the puck below the goal line, skate out in front of Vokoun, then gather his own rebound for an easy marker. The Caps last year were a better shorthanded team because they went to shorter shifts and became more aggressive, but they also played smart. Too many times this season, and even in pre-season, defenseman have been leaving their goalie “hung out to dry” with poor positioning.
  • Alexander Semin was arguably the Caps top forward in the first five games of the season but in the last four games he has one point (an assist), is -3, and has taken a penalty in each contest. #28 needs someone to get him the puck so that he can unleash his great shot but he also can blame himself for his poor play over the last 10 days or so. Semin has shied away from contact and his compete level has dropped off as evidenced by a total of five shots on goal in those last four tilts. The Caps need balanced scoring and they will not be a consistent team without #28 contributing. The loss of Green also hurts Semin’s production because he is a rearguard that opens up room for offensive players. It will be interesting to see if Bodureau changes things up and puts Semin with a new center this week, perhaps Perreault (5 points in 7 games and +6)  instead of Marcus Johansson? That isn’t to say that MJ90 has not been productive, he has three game winning goals, but for some reason he and Semin have not formed the necessary chemistry that a second scoring line needs, at this juncture.
  • The Caps are currently sitting at 27th in the league in faceoff percentage at 47.9%. Backstrom, Laich, and Johansson are the top three guys taking draws and they are 43.9%, 44.8%, and 38.5%, respectively. Halpern is fourth on number of face-offs and he is winning 65.2% of them so that is why you’ll often see him taking key d-zone draws. When you lose a faceoff, your opponent has the puck so that forces the Caps to go get it. I am sure Boudreau and company would much rather start with the biscuit so it will be interesting to see if those stats change as the year progresses.

In summary, the Caps are off to a good start at 7-2 and the Green injury played a large role in the two losses. Green earns an average of $5+ million a year for a reason but it is imperative that Washington find a way to prevent such a dropoff in their level of play when their leading d-men is out of the lineup due to injury. The work ethic wasn’t the big problem on this recent road trip but execution and hockey smarts were and those are controllable. Fortunately we are only one month into a six month regular season journey so there is plenty of time for the team to improve and make adjustments. More importantly, this team is much stronger on paper than it was last October 31st so there is a huge potential upside if the club works hard and sticks together.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Green, Vokoun Lead Caps in Rout of Red Wings

Posted on 23 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

Two undefeated hockey teams hit the ice at the Verizon Center on Saturday night but when the smoke settled it was the Washington Capitals who will remain the last team in the NHL with a perfect record as they blitzed the Detroit Red Wings, 7-1. The Caps once again rode the excellent goaltending of Tomas Vokoun (32 saves) plus Mike Green scored two power play goals and added two assists, despite taking a puck in the chin in the first period and getting several stitches, in the rout. The victory pushes the Capitals to a 7-0 record while Detroit falls to 5-1.

Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis from a contest that saw 14 different Washington players get at least a point:

- As everyone knows, goaltending is huge in hockey. Vokoun was outstanding again while Ty Conklin did not fare well for the Wings. However, it is much harder to stop pucks when players are constantly in your face and that is what the Capitals did on Saturday while Detroit, who were missing Tomas Holmstrom, did not do in return. Therefore, it is natural that the Caps goalie had a better game. Conklin likely would want the fourth goal back, which came from Mathieu Perreault after the Wings net minder allowed a long blast from Matt Hendricks to trickle through his pads, but other than that one, he didn’t have a lot of help. Troy Brouwer (1 assist) continues to pay dividends going to the front of the net and he was screening Conklin on both of Green’s power play tallies.

“I’m sitting behind the bench and going that’s one fantastic team. The first 10 minutes, it came at you in waves. They are so fast and they know where everybody is. The difference was our goalie was better than their goalie tonight. I think they just ran out of steam, with their second game in two nights, in the second period,” said a humble and complimentary Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. However, when he watches the film, I think he’ll see that his club paid the price in front of the net much more than Detroit and that is a good reason why his goalie performed better.

- As Boudreau mentioned above, the Wings did come out fast and they are a great skating team. But given that they played the night before, if Washington was able to weather the early storm, then I thought they would have a huge advantage being the fresher team. Detroit nearly scored first when Henrik Zetterberg set up Pavel Datsyuk for a great chance in front but when #13 made an extra move to try and tuck the biscuit by Vokoun, either the puck hit the skate of the Caps goalie or the Wings Dan Cleary. It was a break for the Capitals and they took advantage of that because I felt like they carried the play for the last 15 minutes or so of the opening stanza. That first period ended with Washington up 2-0 and Mike Knuble hit the post with three seconds left on the power play otherwise it would have been three-zip.

- Speaking of the power play and special teams, the Caps went 2 for 4 on the man advantage and that aspect of the game continues to get better for Washington. Boudreau and assistant coach Dean Evason seemed to have gotten the players to buy into a more simple approach by getting the pucks to the point and firing away with traffic in front. The addition of Brouwer really helps that and moving Alexander Ovechkin (2 assists, +1) off of the point has improved things too. With the Gr8 down low, either in the slot or on the half wall, the opposing team is paying more attention to him and that is opening up more point shots for the Caps. With both Green and Dennis Wideman in the lineup plus capable d-shooters Roman Hamrlik and John Carlson who can man the points, the power play is becoming much more dangerous. Besides Brouwer and Ovechkin the Caps have used Knuble and Laich in front as well. This also creates more room for Nicklas Backstrom (1 goal, 1 assist) to make plays and #19′s saucer pass to Green on the game’s first tally was a highly skilled thing of beauty.

- Detroit had their chances to get back in the game in the middle frame when Washington got into penalty trouble. The Wings only tally came on a 5 on 3 power play and shortly thereafter the boys from Motown received another 38 second five on three situation. However, Vokoun made a huge save at the side of the net and Detroit didn’t get any other opportunities since the Caps did a great job of keeping the Wings to the outside. It was some superb penalty killing by the Capitals that pretty much sealed the Wings fate in that second period.

“I thought the penalty killing was extraordinary. Even though it doesn’t show up, it was 1-for-4, and those two 5-on-3’s were difference makers. We took four penalties in about eight minutes there and it could’ve very well been 3-3 in a heartbeat,” said Boudreau about a critical stretch in period two, when Detroit was trying to get back in the game after trailing 3-0.

- The Perreault tally with seven seconds left in period two was the nail in the coffin for the Caps and the Wings pretty much mailed it in for the final 20 minutes. #85 had another super game and he scored his second goal, Washington’s sixth, from the slot right off of a faceoff win. Jeff Halpern and Hendricks (2 assists) got the helpers on that one. If Perreault can continue to provide energy and stay healthy, then he can be very effective playing 10 to 12 minutes a game for Boudreau and company.

- The final shot tally will say 33-25 in favor of Detroit but I thought that Washington, except for the opening five minutes and a 10 minute stretch in period two when the Wings had four power plays and generated six shots on goal, dominated the contest. The Wings are fast but the Caps, with speedsters like Marcus Johansson (1 goal) and Jason Chimera, were able to generate speed through the neutral zone and create many scoring opportunities. Yes, Vokoun was good, but this was a team effort and if the Capitals keep getting bodies to the front of the opposing cage while keeping the shooting lanes clear for their own goalie, then they are going to be a very difficult team to beat.

Notes: Detroit won the faceoff battle 34-29. MJ90 was 7-5, Halpern was 6-3, while Perreault went 3-1. On the down side was Laich at 6-14 and Backstrom lost 8 of 12 draws…Green led the Caps with 22:09 of ice time. He left for stitches late in period one, but even still, #52 is having to play less minutes because this roster is very balanced…Nicklas Lidstrom played in his 1500th NHL game on Saturday and had an assist…The Caps are off until next Thursday when they play in Edmonton.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Caps Off to Best Start Ever

Posted on 18 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals came in to Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers with a perfect 4-0 record, but they had yet to really play a complete 60 minutes this season. You can cross that off of the list now as the Caps came out and forechecked the Panthers to death in a very solid and dominating 3-0 victory. Washington got an early power play goal from Marcus Johansson, then Alexander Semin rifled one by Jacob Markstrom (29 saves) just 1:49 into the final period, and Jason Chimera hit the empty net to close this one out with 44 seconds left. Tomas Vokoun won his fourth straight game making 20 saves for his first shut out as a Capital. This is the first time in Washington Capitals history that the team has started 5-0.

Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis of a victory over a team that had pummeled the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-4, with 5 power play goals,  just one night earlier:

- The Panthers had to fly in late Monday night from Florida but that is how the sports schedule works out sometimes. Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau and his team knew this and jumped all over the Cats early on. Florida didn’t have a shot on goal until after the 10 minute mark of the first period as Washington continuously got pucks deep and used their size to cycle the puck on a soft Panthers defense to generate numerous scoring opportunities. The Caps could have had at least three or four goals in the opening stanza but they either fired wide or the Swede, making his first NHL start, denied them with his large frame.

“I think we tried to do that. They were tired. They played two very emotional games against their cross town rival and had to fly here so we thought this was the perfect advantage for us in the scheduling. I’m sure probably somewhere down the road it will reverse itself. We got a break and if you don’t take advantage of the breaks, shame on us,” said Boudreau on how the NHL slate helped his team on Tuesday.

- It was encouraging to see the Capitals simplify their game and not get caught up in to trying to make the perfect cross ice pass. Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Ovechkin, and Troy Brouwer played smart hockey and were physical on a not so big Panthers defensive unit. Washington seems to play their best hockey when they play as a team and don’t get fancy. Their work ethic was outstanding on Tuesday and the score was much closer than the game actually was because at no point did I ever feel like Florida had a chance to win this contest.

“The first two lines got pucks deep, so that really helped. When we get in trouble we try to play too skilled. When we get pucks deep, it’s hard to contain big bodies like Ovi (Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin), Knubs (Capitals forward Mike Knuble) and Semin (Capitals forward Alexander Semin),” said Chimera on why the Caps were so dominant.

“We were getting it and getting it deep and moving it. I thought for the first time this year we could have had 7 or 8. We were missing nets and their goalie played pretty good. I thought it was a well rounded effort by us,” added Boudreau on the victory.

- Vokoun only had to face two shots in the first period but in the next two stanzas he stopped nine each. There were times when he had to make a solid save to bail out a poor defensive play but overall his team was solid in front of him, which allowed him to challenge shooters. The 35 year old on a $1.5M one year deal, since a shaky opening 60 minutes against Tampa, has been everything the Capitals have needed in goal and more.

“He’s pretty solid and when we did have breakdowns he was there to help us out. That is what you need,” commented Boudreau on his net minder.

- Special teams are so important in NHL games and on this evening the Caps were perfect in that department. They only took two penalties, both on Roman Hamrlik (although I thought the first one was a bogus call), and they stymied a highly skilled and dangerous Cats power play. Washington swarmed the puck and took away any space the Panthers had and on both occassions, they weren’t able to get much of a sniff of the net. The only power play the Caps received was quite effective as Johansson buried the biscuit after some solid zone time. The key to that power play was the work of Ovechkin in the slot, who was flanked by MJ90 and Backstrom with Mike Green and Dennis Wideman at the points. When all three Panthers converged on Ovie, Johansson had a lane to the cage and he slid the puck under Markstrom less than five minutes into the contest. Those who’ve followed this blog know that I much prefer Ovechkin down low (slot or half wall) on a 5 on 4 power play because he can use his size in front for screens or in getting to rebounds. With so many good shots on the point now, to include Green, Wideman, Hamrlik, and John Carlson, it makes much more sense for the Gr8 to be down low. I am okay with Ovechkin getting point time in 5 on 3 or even 4 on 3 situations because in those instances there will be more open lanes for his powerful shot to get through. But overall, putting Alexander the Great down low will likely lead to more power play goals for the Caps and Johansson’s marker tonight drives that point home.

- In summary, this was a total team effort, granted it was against a tired club. But the Panthers have some talent, although they appear low on grit. Just about every Washington player had a good game, but Green was superb despite getting slashed in the lower body region by Jay Garrison at the end of the second period. Semin was excellent as well and he’s been the best forward on the top two lines this season. Backstrom is off to a nice start too and #19 looks to be regaining the form he had in 2009-10. It’s only been five games, but the Caps have 10 points. Boudreau, however, knows you can’t win the Stanley Cup in October and he talked about that after the victory.

“When it comes to April and May I’m not going to be able to sit here and say, ‘Hey we were 5-0, we got that record, isn’t that great.’ It is not going to hold a lot of weight. It is nice, but it is just the process of getting where we want to get. Right now we’re looking toward an opponent like Philadelphia who is 4-0-1,” finished Boudreau, noting that the Capitals next game is the hated Flyers on Thursday night in Philly. That will be a can’t miss contest.

Notes: Washington lost the faceoff battle 24-22 but Jeff Halpern was 8-1. MJ90 was a dismal 1-6 from the dot…Matt Hendricks had a game leading six hits…Semin was +2 and had 4 shots on goal in 16:03 of ice time…Mathieu Perreault returned to the lineup and played 9:53 (even, 0 points)…Dany Sabourin was recalled from Hershey to be the back up goalie as Michal Neuvirth continues to struggle with a lower body injury…Jay Beagle is not practicing right now and DJ King was the other scratch at forward.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vokoun Helps Caps Reach 4-0

Posted on 15 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals raced out to an early 2-0 lead midway through the first period on goals by Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson and then once again rode the excellent goaltending of Tomas Vokoun (33 saves) en route to a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. This victory, the Capitals first in regulation in the 2011-12 campaign, improves their record to 4-0. This is the third time in franchise history they have started with four straight wins (1991-92 and 1997-98). The Caps are now 3-0 at the Verizon Center this season after Saturday night’s win.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from the 109th consecutive home sellout:

- Vokoun once again bailed his teammates out, like he did on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. He continues to be solid with his positioning and make the big save despite still trying to figure out how his skaters are going to play in front of him. He still has had some adventures playing the puck and the communication with his defenders is not totally worked out yet. Still, if he isn’t in goal these last two games Washington likely loses. The Caps have to be encouraged by the 35 year old Czech’s ability to find ways to win games for his team.

“The one that he stopped on [Milan] Michalek – We have a great shift going and then all of the sudden the puck is sitting there. It’s nobody’s mistake, somebody thinks somebody’s taking it somebody else, and then he gets a breakaway. It’s not us playing badly…it was just a miscommunication and Tomas [Vokoun] came up big and he came up big in the last 20 seconds,” said Boudreau on his club and his goaltender.

- Washington outshot the Senators 14-8 in the first period and dominated the first 19 minutes of the contest. However, a terrible giveaway by Dennis Wideman in his own zone and then some poor play by Roman Hamrlik and the Washington forwards led to a goal for Ottawa with just over 25 seconds left in period one.  From then on out, the Senators seemed to have extra jump and in the middle frame they were all over the Caps outshooting them 12-4. The Capitals did too much watching and not enough skating in that period and an inferior opponent made them look bad, but fortunately for Washington, their goalie held the fort. In the third period, the Capitals had a little more jump but still, they were outplayed by Ottawa and outshot 14-8. Afterwards, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau credited Ottawa for their hard work, and rightly so. But my issue is with the Caps play. It was unacceptable and if they can’t out work a team like Ottawa then there has to be some concern, especially when all we’ve heard the Washington players talk about since training camp opened was being the team that won the work ethic battle each night. In the last two games, including a tilt against hated rival Pittsburgh, the Capitals have been crushed in the effort department.

“They are not satisfied and that’s great. If we thought we were king of the world right now then it would probably be a little bit more difficult. It’s a tough league, whoever you play. You can say what you want about Ottawa, but they were a very motivated club tonight and they played very hard,” said Boudreau afterwards about a Senators team that responded well after being drilled 7-1 by Colorado in their last start.

- Ottawa came into this contest ranked first on the power play so a Capitals priority was to stay out of the box on Saturday night. The only penalty called on Washington was on Karl Alzner in the first period, and that was a questionable one, but the Caps killed it off. Washington received three power plays in the first 25 minutes scoring on their first one. Mike Knuble (2 assists) worked the puck out from behind the net, fed Alexander Semin at the left post, and #28 made a super cross crease pass to Backstrom for an easy tally. On the next two power plays, the Caps struggled to get things set up so they finished 1-3 on the night. It was encouraging to see Alexander Ovechkin off of the point on those three manpower advantages as Mike Green, Wideman, and Hamrlik manned the blue line in those situations. The power play still needs work but it is improving.

“We didn’t want to take any penalties against them and didn’t do that. We had some chances to break it open but we didn’t do it. In the clutch, we did what we had to do. Not every game is going to be beautiful and the other team wants to win too,” added Boudreau.

- Hamrlik has been mostly paired with Green and on paper should be an upgrade in the mobility department over #52′s old d-partners, Shaone Morrisonn, Jeff Schultz, and Scott Hannan. However, #44 is not as good of a skater as I first thought and has looked shaky in the last two games. He and Wideman, as mentioned above, were out of sync on the Ottawa tally. It is only October so hopefully the 38 year old Czech, who is -1 through four games but has been on the ice for 7 of the 11 goals the Caps have allowed (h/t  @JapersRink), finds his legs and improves once he gets more experience playing with Green and the other Washington defenders.

“The more you play, you get some confidence and you feel better out there. The other five defenseman on our team, they are good players; they can move the puck. I am getting used [to] the guys,” said Hamrlik following the game. #44 played in his 1,315th career NHL game, passing Bobby Holik for the most NHL games played by a Czech native.

 - At the end of the day, a win is a win and those two previous Capitals clubs that went 4-0 did have a lot of success, so that bodes well. One went to the Stanley Cup Finals (98) and the other blew a 3-1 first round lead to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins in the first round following a super regular season. That was a very talented Capitals team that came very close to beating a loaded Pittsburgh club. Goaltending was the difference in that 1992 loss, but the Caps just might finally have a big game goalie now, like they did with Olie Kolzig in 1998.

Notes: Forward DJ King received his first start of the season with Jay Beagle being kept out for precautionary reasons after getting hurt in his fight with Arron Asham. King was pointless but even in nine shifts and 6:58 TOI…Johansson’s goal was a beautiful individual effort and the young Swede used his speed to sneak a wraparound tally by Alex Auld (24 saves)…Washington lost the faceoff battle, 33-28. Jeff Halpern was 3-2, the only Cap that was above 50%…next up for the Caps are the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center…Owner Ted Leonsis noted that the Caps are putting 400 individual tickets on sale online before each game to give fans who can’t afford season tickets access to the team for games. That is a great idea given that the team sold out all season tickets and now have a waiting list…the Hershey Bears had a chance to start 4-0 as well but lost in OT to the Norfolk Admirals, 6-5, in the home opener at the Giant Center. Braden Holtby made 22 saves in the loss. Keith Aucoin had four assists and Chris Bourque had a goal and was +1. Bourque had five points in a 7-5 victory in Norfolk on Friday night.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Caps Beat Pens Thanks to Vokoun

Posted on 13 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

When Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee signed Tomas Vokoun last July, there was a lot of talk about the Caps getting a goalie who could flat out steal games. Well on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, that is exactly what happened as Vokoun made 39 saves to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 overtime victory. Defensemen Dennis Wideman netted the game winner on Washington’s only power play of the contest after Penguins forward James Neal had tied this one up at two on the power play with 3:45 left in regulation.

Here are the highlights and analysis of a game that saw the Penguins dominate most of the contest:

- Michal Neuvirth likely would have had this start given his recent success against the Pens, but when he came down with a lower body injury that forced the Caps to recall Braden Holtby from Hershey today and give Vokoun the chance to get wins in consecutive starts. The 35 year old Czech delivered, building on his great OT and shootout performance in Monday’s 6-5 victory over Tampa Bay. Vokoun didn’t have to be spectacular but he was very solid and didn’t give the Penguins many second chances. If the Caps can improve their play in their own end, and they were pretty bad tonight, just think how good this goalie could be for this team?

- Evgeni Malkin had an outstanding game for Pittsburgh. His two cross ice seam passes set up James Neal’s two tallies. One of the reasons #71 was able to make those plays is because the Washington players were not playing positionally sound or smart in their own end. On the first goal, both Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson chase the puck carrier leaving the back side open. In the first three games we’ve seen opponents exploit the Capitals habit of over chasing and/or watching the puck carrier. The Capitals have to learn to play better without the puck in their own zone and clog the passing lanes and not over commit. I imagine Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe will be showing lots of video on Friday to try and correct these d-zone breakdowns.

- The Capitals players have talked about being the team with the better work ethic in every game. Tonight they were soundly defeated in that category. The Penguins out shot the Caps 12-3 in the first period and 18-3 in the third. It was only in the middle frame that the Capitals had the upper hand, outshooting Pittsburgh, 11-9. I am not sure why the Capitals were so flat early on but one of the reasons for the third period letdown was the Arron Asham-Jay Beagle fight. Beagle had just coincidentally knocked off the helmet of Kris Letang, which would earn him a roughing penalty, and Asham took exception calling on #83 to fight. Beagle, who is definitely not a fighter, but as he told me on media day last Thursday knows he will need to do so at times, was floored with a couple of rights and went to the ice bleeding. He had to be helped off of the rink afterwards but that didn’t stop Asham from making a couple of classless gestures. Asham admitted after the game that he got caught up in the moment, but still, to celebrate after knocking out a non-fighter was totally uncalled for. The fight clearly negatively impacted the Capitals, who had played 25 decent minutes of hockey in a row, since they struggled mightily the rest of the way until overtime.

- Alexander Ovechkin, after a subpar opening two games, made a difference in this one. He deflected in Green’s point shot early in the third period to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead and he drew the only penalty officially called on the Penguins in the game. That came in overtime when he faked Jordan Staal out of his jock in the neutral zone and #11 tripped the Gr8. On the 4 on 3 power play Green hit the right pipe but on the ensuing rush Wideman took a nice feed from Nicklas Backstrom (two assists) and buried it past former Capitals goalie Brent Johnson (16 saves).

- When you are outworked, you normally will find yourself on the short end of the stick in total number of power plays. The Penguins received five while Washington only had one, although I do think the Pens got away with a few things, especially some goalie interference by Chris Kunitz. In addition, Tyler Kennedy did hit Backstrom in the head in the third period, similiar to the Beagle shot on Letang, although #19′s lid stayed on so maybe it didn’t look so bad to the blurry eyed zebras? (Note: the referees initially waved off Ovechkin’s goal, they thought it hit the cross bar). It is hard to argue about the calls against the Caps, they were of the lazy or not too smart variety. Brooks Laich’s cross check on Malkin came after a failed clear. What made that situation even worse was that Green already had lost his stick so what the Caps should’ve done was ice the puck.  Instead they got running around and eventually found themselves shorthanded. The last penalty though, on Troy Brouwer, might have been the worst. The Caps were up a goal and he needlessly hauled down a Pens player in the neutral zone. That one ended up allowing Neal to tie the game. Brouwer did make a nice play on Ovechkin’s goal, he was in front of Johnson battling with Zbynek Michalek providing traffic.

- In summary, the Caps were fortunate to win this contest and move to 3-0. Washington has been playing with fire by going to extra time in each tilt and they have had some very poor play in their own zone. The good news though, is they are getting balanced production in their lineup and Boudreau is not having to put his big guns out on the ice for extended minutes. Green has already seen a reduction in his ice time and that should only keep him fresher and hopefully injury free.

Notes: Steve Whyno of The Washington Times tweeted that Asham had 83 career NHL fights while this was Beagle’s first…the Caps lost the faceoff battle 26-23 but Jeff Halpern went 6-2…Mike Knuble scored the Caps first goal by crashing the net hard…Karl Alzner had another strong game and picked up his third assist of the season…the Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, although he has been cleared for contact effective today, and defensemen Brooks Orpik…Washington is now 11-0-2 in their last 13 regular season games against Pittsburgh (h/t @SkyKerstein of DC’s 106.7 THE FAN)…next up for the Caps are the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Caps Finalize Roster

Posted on 04 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals finalized their NHL roster on Tuesday at 3pm, as required by the NHL, in preparation for Saturday’s season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 pm at the Verizon Center. The final roster is really no surprise (especially if you follow this blog or me on twitter: @EdFrankovic) and is listed below.

Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer, Mike Knuble, Marcus Johansson, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Jeff Halpern, Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, and DJ King

Defensemen: Mike Green, Roman Hamrlik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Dennis Wideman, Jeff Schultz, and John Erskine

Goalies: Tomas Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth

Forwards Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren plus defensemen Dmitry Orlov were sent to Hershey this afternoon and will get more seasoning in the American Hockey League. Defensemen Tom Poti is injured and as a result will not count against the salary cap (I doubt he will ever play for Washington again given his injury situation).

In other Caps news, Ovechkin, whose uncle passed away unexpectedly, did practice today but was slated to leave Tuesday after practice for Russia for the funeral. The Gr8 plans to come back on Friday and play in Saturday night’s season opener.

Last season, many of the Capitals came into training camp feeling the hangover effects of their first round playoff loss to Montreal and didn’t get themselves in the best of shape for the regular season. While the Caps still wound up as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, they really didn’t have their game honed for the post season. This summer, GM George McPhee let it be known that the players were required to be in better shape for camp and based on what I’ve seen and heard, that guidance was absolutely followed. The key now for the Caps is to get off to a fast start and incorporate the new faces that were added in the offseason.

For me, the biggest focus of the regular season should be on team defense and goaltending, because that is what wins Stanley Cups. The Boston Bruins were outstanding in their own zone in the post season and their goalie found ways to steal games in the playoffs. Washington must really work on that aspect of their game this regular season and build on Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau’s system change from last December, which was definitely the right way to go if the Caps are ever going to make the Stanley Cup Finals. The Caps, believe it or not, were 4th in the league in goals against in the regular season last year. However, partly due to injuries, they did not sustain that level of success in the playoffs. Team defense includes the forwards and if done correctly, then the goaltender’s job becomes exponentially easier because he will know where the opponents shots are coming from. From what I’ve seen in preseason, the Capitals have a lot of work to do in this area but I do think the players all realize that the regular season does indeed matter. I’ll be providing lots of analysis on Washington’s play in their own zone as the season progresses.

Notes:  The Capitals and Penguins today announced a joint effort to raise money for the families of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the KHL team that perished in a plane crash Sept. 7 in Russia. Caps and Pens players will wear jerseys with commemorative Lokomotiv patches at the Oct. 13 game, then autograph the game-worn and game-issued jerseys afterward and auction them off at www.nhl.com. All proceeds will benefit the Lokomotitv players’ children and families…Caps Red Line (CRL), presented by GEICO, is returning for a special preseason episode on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet. CRL takes viewers behind the scenes of the weeks leading up to the regular season. Replays will air on Friday, Oct. 7 at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. on Comcast SportsNet and on WashingtonCaps.com.

Comments Off

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Caps Close Out Preseason with 4-1 Victory

Posted on 02 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

Preseason hockey ended on Sunday night as the Washington Capitals closed out their training camp with a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before 18,405 at the Verizon Center. Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 of 29 shots and also received some help from the posts and crossbar while Mathieu Perreault, Brooks Laich, Mike Green, and Jay Beagle tallied for the Caps. Marian Hossa, who was Chicago’s best player on this night, scored the lone goal for the Hawks.

Here are the highligths, quotes, and analysis from a victory that wasn’t as impressive as Friday night’s win over Buffalo:

- Why was this victory not as impressive as the win against the Sabres? The Caps were not as crisp as they were in that tilt and Chicago also didn’t play their best forward in Jonathan Toews and top two defensemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Washington’s head coach certainly agreed with that assessment in his post game comments.

“I don’t know. I thought it was a pretty sloppy game quite frankly. I thought the Buffalo game, other than the three or four turnovers in our zone that gave them chances was an emotional game,” commented Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau when asked if this win was the best performance of the preseason.

 

- Perreault continued his inspired play and notched another goal to pretty much cement his spot on the roster. He scored because he went to the front of the net and banged home the rebound of a great point shot by Green. What also helps #85′s cause is that he cannot be sent to Hershey without having to clear waivers first. The key to playing time, as always, for the 2006 6th round pick will be consistency. Perreault put on additional muscle this offseason and that should help prevent him from wearing down as quickly as he’s done in the past.

 

“I think our best player all of camp was Perreault. I think he played with energy every night. I think he was very similar last year but we’ll sit down tomorrow and discuss all of this,” added Boudreau on #85′s training camp and his chances of making the opening night roster.

 

- Neuvirth was very good in this contest after missing last Friday’s game due to a minor injury. He did get some help from the iron but he also was positionally sound and didn’t give up many rebounds. The only goal he allowed was one he had no chance on as Hossa scored on the power play after a Karl Alzner turnover behind the Washington goal. What compounded #27′s mistake was that his defensive partner, John Carlson, chose to go behind the net and leave the front of the cage open with King Karl already there. It was a mental error by Carlson and as a result #81 was all alone at the left post for an easy marker after the change in possession. If Neuvirth continues to play like he did this evening he will get numerous starts despite the fact that Tomas Vokoun has been declared the team’s number one goalie, which is a good thing for the Capitals.

 

“I won two games and I am pretty happy with my training camp. Doesn’t really bother me, I am just going to wake up tomorrow and work hard. If I get the call, I will be ready,” said Neuvirth on his preseason and how he will conduct himself going forward.

 

- Green was super again and completed an outstanding preseason with a goal and an assist in 23:27 of ice time on Sunday. He did take a puck to the hand on a Hawks shot but according to Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, #52 said he just has a bruise and is okay. His goal came on a 5 on 3 off of a nice feed from Alexander Ovechkin and according to Hawks commentator Eddie Olcyzk, the curl and drag move he made just before releasing the shot gave him a different angle, which put Corey Crawford (32 saves on 35 shots) at a major disadvantage. It was another highly skilled play by the talented defensemen who appears to be in outstanding physical shape for this upcoming regular season.

 

 - The NHL is very focused on limiting shots to the head and Washington had a scary moment when Alexander Semin took a forearm/elbow to the head from Peter LeBlanc. LeBlanc, who was drafted in the 7th round by Chicago in 2006, left his feet slighty on the hit. #28 did have his head down as he had the puck in his skates but there was no need for #72 to hit him up high. I don’t think the young Hawks player intended to hurt Semin, he was just trying to make a big hit, and he doesn’t have a history of bad penalties. However, his lack of skill showed on the play and with hits to the noggin being big no-no’s, I expect the NHL office might make an example of him and levy a suspension. Semin was okay after the hit despite staying down for a minute or so, according to Boudreau, so that was very good news for the Caps.

 

- Another area of the Caps performance that Boudreau likely was not happy about was the power play. The Capitals went 1 for 6 but the lone tally came late in the game with a two man advantage. On Friday Washington did a nice job with the power play by getting the puck to the top of the point and blasting from there with traffic in front while on Sunday they reverted to overpassing and looking for one timers. Ovechkin was on the point on mulitple occassions in the first period and in one instance he allowed Hossa to get a clean shorthanded breakaway. As I’ve written before, I much prefer the Gr8 on the half wall where he can fire away his laser shot or feed the puck to the point and then surge to the cage for rebound goals. Green, in the postgame on Friday, mentioned that the Caps were not going to show all of their power play secrets yet, so hopefully what we saw on Sunday was not how things will be implemented once the regular season commences.

 

- Dmitri Orlov looked pretty good in just over 14 minutes of work. The highly skilled defenseman showed that he does not look out of place at all at the NHL level. His talent is excellent and if he continues to progress in his own end he will get more time in Washington sooner, rather than later. The NHL is very much about skating these days with the post lockout rules and the 2009 second round pick is an outstanding skater. I am never against giving a player more time in Hershey to develop though and the Caps have that luxury with the crew of d-men they already have with NHL experience.

 

- Laich centered Joel Ward and Jason Chimera on the 3rd unit and that line clicked. In addition, #21 was 11-5 on faceoffs. If he can be successful in that slot at center then that allows Boudreau a lot of flexibility in his day to day lineup and gives him a shutdown crew that can also score goals. The success of that line was one of the big bright spots of Sunday’s game.

 

Notes: Beagle’s goal came shorthanded with the empty net. The hard working and versatile #83 is a lock to make the roster…Chicago was 1 for 5 on the power play…Washington won the faceoff battle 29-24…the Caps next game is their season opener at home on Saturday versus the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 pm.

 

 

 

Comments Off