Tag Archive | "buffalo"

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

Caps & Ovechkin Stayin’ Alive After Shootout Win

Posted on 30 March 2013 by Ed Frankovic

It was 3-1 Sabres going into the third period and the Washington Capitals season was basically on the line.

Sure they were carrying much of the play after a horrid first 20 minutes, but the way Jhonas Enroth (35 saves) was going it wasn’t looking good for the Caps

Even after Troy Brouwer scored on a shorthanded goal set up by Braden Holtby (yes, you read that correctly), the Caps were down a puck and had to pull their goalie in the last minute to try and tie the game. Fortunately Mike Green lasered one in with 40 seconds remaining and then Matt Hendricks and Alexander Ovechkin scored on the first two Caps shootout tries while the two Buffalo shooters failed to tally to give Washington a huge 4-3 comeback victory.

It was two points the Caps had to have and they found a way to get it against a bad Buffalo squad.

The win pulls Washington to within five points of Southeast Division leading Winnipeg (and the Caps have 2 games in hand) and they are now just two points in back of the 8th place New York Rangers, who continue to lose under dictator John Tortorella despite having a very talented roster.

With the trade deadline fast approaching on Wednesday, the Capitals players had a big chance to show their general manager that they still have a club that can make the post season with the three games in four nights that started on Saturday in Buffalo. A loss to one of the weaker clubs, the Sabres, would surely signal that George McPhee should get on the phone and start selling. Well, this win keeps the “add players to improve the team” option open to McPhee and they have a chance to increase the probability of that option on Sunday night when they take on the Flyers in Philadelphia at 6 pm.

There were lots of good things in this victory. Ovechkin was all over the ice and his stat line for the contest reads:

1 goal, 1 shootout goal, +1, 17 shots attempted (10 on goal), 3 hits, and two takeaways in 25:57 of ice time

It is pretty obvious that the Gr8, who notched his 17th tally of the season, is trying as hard as possible to carry his club out of its huge standings hole and into the post season. He has been playing extremely well since being reunited with Nicklas Backstrom a couple of weeks ago.

Holtby (20 saves and an assist) probably should have had the first tally by Christian Ehrhoff but the other two, by Ville Leino, were layups as Washington played poorly in their own end for stretches in the first two periods. #70 made some big stops to give his club a chance to come back and tie it and then he did his job, along with the post, in the shootout.

Overall, the effort was really there after a slow start, which might have been due to four days off. It was clear which club wanted it more at the end and as a result, the Capitals found a way to win.

The poor play in their own end, especially to start the game, must stop immediately. This is two straight games that the opponents are getting the lead goal because the Capitals are sleep walking in their zone. Remember what happened the last time the Caps went to Philadelphia? The Flyers scored on the very first shift and Washington had no chance and were smoked. A good start to correcting the defensive zone would be to sit Jeff Schultz and put Dmitry Orlov back in. #55 did not look good at all in his 11 plus minutes of action, which appeared to me to be a showcasing scenario. Washington needs to be prepared for the physical play they’ll get from the Flyers forwards.

So the Caps improve to 16-17-1 and will try for the third time this season to reach the .500 mark. The last two times they had bad starts and lost to the Islanders. Will things be different in the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday?

If the Caps players want to stay together and not be sold off at the deadline, they better find a way to get it done on Sunday.

But for Saturday night and into early Sunday morning the Capitals are still in the race. They were on the ropes but found a way to get it done in Buffalo.

So go ahead and crank up the Bee Gees after this one, because as sure as Barry Gibb and his brothers sang it back in the 1970’s, the Caps are living that theme tonight after a huge comeback against the Sabres.

“Feel the City Breakin’ and Everybody Shakin’ and we’re stayin’ Alive, stayin’ Alive”

Notes: The attempted shots were 66 to 41 in favor of Washington…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 32-29, which included a big win by Brouwer right before Green tied the game…Wojtek Wolski suited up and played only 8:23. The injury to Eric Fehr is hurting the lineup as #16 was playing well this season…Down a level, Philip Grubauer stopped 37 shots as Hershey rallied to defeat Providence, 3-2 on Satruday night. The Bears improve to 32-26-3-6 (73 points) and remain in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with nine games left in the regular season.

Comments Off on Caps & Ovechkin Stayin’ Alive After Shootout Win

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

Caps Follow Ovechkin’s Lead to Victory

Posted on 18 March 2013 by Ed Frankovic

After a subpar effort in Boston on Saturday, the Washington Capitals needed a fast start to get back on track Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres. They got just that as Alexander Ovechkin lasered home the biscuit 19 seconds into the contest after Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone draw and Marcus Johansson tapped the puck to the Gr8. The Caps would go on to grab a 4-1 lead, see it shrink to 4-3, before Mathieu Perreault put this one away with 4:55 to go. The victory improves Washington to 12-15-1 and seven points out of first place in the Southeast Division with 20 games remaining.

There were lots of good and some not so good in Washington’s play Sunday evening but one thing is for certain, the Sabres are a bad team and appear headed to battling Florida for the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the NHL standings.

The fact that Buffalo is bad was my primary takeaway of the night but there are several things worth pointing out in this contest as it relates to the Capitals:

– Ovechkin’s night included the early goal and he could have had several more. In 20:11 of ice time he had 16 shot attempts, five of which found the cage. He hit the post in the first period and had numerous scoring chances. He also doled out three hits and very importantly, he came to the aid of teammate Backstrom in the middle frame. The Sabres are not a physical team on the back end but their primary pest and chief punk, forward Steve Ott, is someone you have to watch out for at all times on the ice. Ott was up to no good most of the evening and after a whistle he reached for Backstrom’s throat area. Ovechkin quickly grabbed Ott from behind and took him to the ice. This was especially good to see given that many were questioning the ability of the Caps to come to the aid of their teammates after Matt Hendricks was jumped in Beantown on Saturday. The team captain was having none of the pesky Ott trying to take out the Capitals #1 center. Good to see there Ovi, great toughness and leadership.

– Washington’s power play is a thing of beauty at times and I credit much of that to Mike Ribeiro and Backstrom. The two of them are creative magicians with the puck and the Troy Brouwer tally that made it 2-1 is one you could watch over and over because of the work of numbers 9 and 19. Brouwer has been very good at being the guy in the middle of the ice who finds space for the in close quick shot or for screening the opposing goalie. Oates has done a good job with the power play and if Mike Green were back healthy, it would likely be even better. John Carlson has a great shot but his passing skills are not at 52’s level and once again on Sunday #74 had a hard time of putting the puck in the correct area for Ovechkin to get off his patented one timer. The Caps went 1 for 4 with the man advantage but if they could get the Gr8 the puck in his wheelhouse the damage could be far greater.

– Speaking of the power play, the Caps received one late when Ott was sent to the dressing room for basically being a horse’s rear. The score was 5-3 and I’m sure many players were thinking about the post game, at that point. I’ve blogged about Oates’ atttention to detail in the past and I noticed that old #77 was quite animated talking to his club before the start of that power play with 1:20 to go. Brouwer said afterwards that Oates was explaining he was going with two defensemen and for his team to be careful and not take chances. He also warned his club that the Sabres would pull Ryan Miller and make it a 5 on 5 situation. Buffalo did just that and the Caps were prepared.

– Once again Washington lost a defensemen in the game and were forced to play with five rearguards. Tom Poti took a cross check from Ott in the second period and didn’t return (played only 7:38 total). Oates said that #3 already had a bad back so the injury wasn’t all on Ott. As a result, Carlson logged 30:15 while Jack Hillen played a season high 23:03. Steve Oleksy played 21:09 but it wasn’t his best game as he screened Braden Holtby (27 saves) on the Sabres first goal and he got suckered into a penalty by Ott in the third period. In fairness to #61, Ott did ask him to go then when Oleksy dropped his mitts the Buffalo forward turtled. In his post game presser, Oates didn’t seem too happy with what Ott did and noted the pre penalty verbal exchange was clear on the video. With the injury to Poti it is unclear who will suit up in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Tomas Kundratek, who was injured in Carolina on Thursday skated minimally on Sunday morning. Green is close to returning while John Erskine is on IR and did not skate on Sunday. In addition, Dmitry Orlov played for Hershey on Sunday night, notched two assists, and was the game’s third star so perhaps #81 could make his Caps season debut in the Steel City or sometime in the near future? One thing is for sure, the Caps have to be tired of losing defensemen in game and having to play short.

Overall, the Capitals got a much needed win on Sunday night. It came against one of the weaker teams in the league. Washington was sloppy, at times, and will need to play a much better game on Tuesday, when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road. The Pens have won nine straight and have really clamped down in their own end. The Caps will have to be close to perfect to beat Sidney Crosby and company.

Notes: Brooks Laich told me he will be back in the lineup “very soon.” Let’s hope that means Tuesday in Pittsburgh or at worst, Thursday in Winnipeg…the Caps destroyed the Sabres from the face off dot, 41-23. Brouwer was 10-2, Perreault was 8-3, and Ribeiro was 5-1…Johansson had a goal and an assist in 18:57 of ice time. It was his best game of the season and he played on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Ribeiro (two assists) centered Brouwer and Eric Fehr to form a solid second unit…Perreault and Joel Ward had two points on the third line and Jason Chimera scored his first goal of the season, a big relief for #25.

Comments Off on Caps Follow Ovechkin’s Lead to Victory

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Morgan begins road stretch Saturday at Buffalo

Posted on 07 September 2012 by WNST Staff

GAME TIME
The Bears (1-0, 0-0) will begin the first of four consecutive road tests when they travel north to face Buffalo Bulls on Saturday (Sept. 8). The Bulls, a member of the BCS, enter the 2012 season under the leadership of second-year head coach Jeff Quinn. Buffalo is coming off a 45-23 loss at Georgia and will be hosting the Bears for a home-opener at UB Stadium.  Morgan State pulled out a 30-27 victory against Sacred Heart in a game that was decided after four overtimes last Saturday in Hughes Stadium. Game time at UB Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m.

THE BEARS-BULLS MATCHUP
• The Bears and Bulls will meet for the third time in history. The series is tied 1-1.

QUICK HITS
• Morgan State will enter the 2012 season with plenty of veterans … the Bears’ roster includes 22 seniors.
•  Seth Higgins returns as the Bears starting QB … He completed 97-of-186 passes for 1,116 yards, including 9 TDs as a true freshman. He threw for 153 yards (14-of-31, INT) in the season-opener vs. Sacred Heart.
• Morgan State returns three of its top rushers from last season: Travis Davidson (792 yards), Tracy Martin (317 yards) and Brian Mann (101 yards).
• Travis Davidson had a 70-yard touchdown run and led the Bears with 107 yards and two touchdowns against Sacred Heart (9/1).
•  MSU wideout Andrew Mitchell led the Bears with five catches for 61 yards against Sacred Heart in his first career start.
•  Kenneth Ridley emerged as a shutdown cornerback in 2011 and ranked T-No. 2 in the MEAC with four interceptions…he collected his first pick of the season vs. Sacred Heart in Week 1.
•  LB Elandon Roberts posted a game-high 11 tackles to go along with two tackles for loss in his first collegiate start as a true freshman last Saturday.
•  DE Richard Ndubueze was selected to the 2012 Preseason All-MEAC First Team.
•  Against Sacred Heart, junior blur Chris Flowers had three kickoff returns for 93 yards, including a 42-yarder in the first quarter…he also had 4 rec. for 40 yards.
•  Statistically, the Bears posted 323 yards of total offense (74 plays) against Sacred Heart, while the Pioneers finished with 441 yards on 98 plays.

BUFFALO THUMBNAILS
•  Branden Oliver (Miami, Fla.) will lead the Buffalo ground attack this fall. The 5-8, 202-pound junior posted 111 yards on 30 carries and scored a touchdown versus Georgia. He was named to three preseason watch lists: The Walter CampMaxwell Award and Doak Walker Award. He was the only MAC player to make all three lists.

• Alex Neutz returns as the Bulls top target on offense. He led the team with four touchdowns, 641 receiving yards, including three games with over 100 yards last season. Neutz led the Bulls with five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown against Georgia.

NEXT UP:
Morgan State will travel to take on the Akron Zips on Sept. 15th. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm. at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field.

Comments Off on Morgan begins road stretch Saturday at Buffalo

Tags: , , , , ,

Ravens add former Bills guard Howard

Posted on 25 July 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The roster additions kept coming Wednesday afternoon as the Ravens added former Buffalo guard Cord Howard to build depth along the offensive line at the start of training camp.

An undrafted free agent from Georgia Tech in 2010, Howard spent his rookie season in Buffalo before spending last season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. He played in 10 games and started four for the Bills during his rookie season.

The 6-foor-4, 314-pound guard is likely a depth move for training camp as the Ravens now have the maximum 90 players on their preseason roster.

Howard joins linebackers Ricky Brown and Darryl Blackstock as roster additions on the eve of the first full-squad workout scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon.

Comments Off on Ravens add former Bills guard Howard

Tags: , , , ,

Britton struggles again in Norfolk loss

Posted on 10 June 2012 by WNST Staff

The Bisons came out with the mentality of making up for their shutout loss Saturday night.

The result Sunday afternoon at Coca-Cola Field was a 4-2 win over the Tides.

The Herd struck first in the bottom of the third.

Bottom half for the Bisons began on back-to-back singles by Sean Kazmar and Corey Wimberly. After that, Brad Emaus hit a bunt to Tides starter Zach Britton to sacrifice Kazmar and Wimberly to second and third with one out.

Fred Lewis delivered with a fly ball single to right to knock in Kazmar and Wimberly and in the process make it a 2-0 Bisons lead.

“Definitely good to see some offense today,” Manager Wally Backman said. “We’ve been missing key opportunities lately so it’s good to get some runs today.”

The Tides although would answer back in the top of the fourth.

After a double by Lew Ford, former major leaguer Miguel Tejada brought in Ford with an RBI single and cut the Bisons lead to 2-1.

In the top of the fifth, Tides tacked on another run to tie the game at 2, courtesy of Bill Hall’s solo shot.

However, the tie ball-game wouldn’t last long. The bottom of the fifth began with a single by Oswaldo Navarro, Kazmar hit a sacrifice bunt to move Navarro to second.

Wimberly followed with a run-scoring double to left to make it 3-2 Bisons.

The Herd tacked on another run in the sixth, this time a solo home run by Rob Johnson.

In relief of Dylan Owen, the Bisons bullpen combined to four and a third innings, allowing two hits and striking out five.

“Our bullpen has been phenomenal lately, especially (Fernando) Cabrera,” Backman added. “He’s built to be a closer so see him deliver the way he is great.”

BISONS NOTES: Fernando Cabrera recorded his 14th save of the season. He is a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities…Fred Lewis is four plate appearances short for qualifying for the sixth-highest average (.305) in the IL…Dylan Owen is the third straight starter to last 4.2 innings Sunday afternoon in an outing, with Harvey and Mejia the other two starters.

 

Comments Off on Britton struggles again in Norfolk loss

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

Moyer throws five shutout innings in Norfolk debut

Posted on 10 June 2012 by WNST Staff

Jamie Moyer and Brad Bergesen combined on a two-hit shutout as the Tides blanked the Buffalo Bisons 5-0 Saturday evening.

Moyer (1-0) was brilliant in his Tides’ debut, as he yielded one single while striking out five in five innings of work. The 49-year-old, who was signed by Baltimore as a free agent earlier this week, did not walk a batter while throwing 52 of his 84 pitches for strikes.

Bergesen tossed the final four innings of the contest to register his first career save. He struck out one and walked one, and he’s now 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA over his last six outings – five of which have been starts.

Norfolk scored all of its runs in the fifth inning, as the Tides sent eight men to the plate against Jenrry Mejia (0-1). The big hit of the inning was a three-run homer by Lew Ford, his fourth home run of the season.

Brian Roberts and Bill Hall each had two hits apiece for Norfolk.

The two clubs will square off again Sunday afternoon, with first pitch slated for 1:05. Left-hander Zach Britton (1-0, 6.00) will take the mound for Norfolk against right-hander Dylan Owen (3-3, 5.32).

Comments Off on Moyer throws five shutout innings in Norfolk debut

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

Your Monday Reality Check-Size Matters And I Won’t Stop Saying It

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Glenn Clark

Remember the guy who scribbled what (at least looking back on it) was nearly a love letter to San Diego Chargers WR Malcom Floyd last summer?

Remember the guy who pounded on the desk for days during his first full week as host of “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net about how much he wanted to see the Baltimore Ravens add Floyd to their receiving corps for 2011?

Remember the guy who received ridicule for not being excited (and frankly showing a level of discontent) after the Ravens failed to acquire Floyd and instead dealt for Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans?

The name’s Glenn Clark. It’s good to talk to you again. In case you were wondering, I haven’t stopped bitching about the need for the Ravens to add size to their receiving corps.

After a relatively quiet start to the 2012 NFL Offseason, the Ravens will absolutely add players this week. The Ravens have eight picks in this weekend’s NFL Draft, and will have the opportunity to address both depth and need over the course of the weekend. Fans and analysts have debated the order of the team’s needs, largely agreeing that Offensive Line, Interior Linebacker, Pass Rusher, Running Back, Safety, Wide Receiver and Kick/Punt Returner tend to make up the list.

I don’t particularly care what order the Ravens use to rank their own needs. As we all know, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company won’t suddenly move away from the “best player available” philosophy that has worked so well for them in recent years.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that at some point during the course of the weekend the team will draft at least one receiver.

My rallying cry will remain the same. When they do, they need to find a receiver who can get up and get the football.

In 2011, six of the top seven total offenses in the National Football League included a significant contributor (either at WR or TE) who stood at least 6’5″ or taller. The other team (the Philadelphia Eagles) had a 6’4″ TE target in Brent Celek.

The Baltimore Ravens have two tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson) who are both listed at 6’4″ but who have been unable to establish themselves as legitimate red zone threats at the pro level. This has at least something to do with why the Ravens managed to score TD’s on just 50% of their trips to the red zone in 2011, a mark good enough for only 18th in the NFL.

(The lack of a singular red zone receiving target isn’t necessarily the ONLY reason why the Ravens have struggled to score TD’s in the red zone, but it’s hard to fathom mutual exclusivity here.)

Comments (4)

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

New Penn State Coach O’Brien to Visit Baltimore in May

Posted on 12 April 2012 by WNST Staff

Penn State Coaches Caravan To Hit The Road This Spring

Coaches Bill O’Brien and Patrick Chambers to Headline Seven State Bus Tour

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 11, 2012 – The Nittany Lion Club and the Penn State Alumni Association will team up to provide fans the chance to meet and hear from some of the leaders of Penn State Athletics this spring when the Penn State Coaches Caravan hits the road for destinations across Nittany Nation, encompassing seven states and Washington, D.C.

Nittany Lion football coach Bill O’Brien will headline the bus tour of many Penn State alumni strongholds across Pennsylvania and the East Coast. The first-year head coach is scheduled to participate in all 18 Coaches Caravan stops across nine days in late April and early May.

O’Brien will be joined by several other Penn State head coaches on varying Coaches Caravan stops, including Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers during the first week, which begins with two events in Philadelphia on Monday, April 30.

O’Brien and selected coaches will speak and answer questions from Penn State fans at every Coaches Caravan stop. Field hockey coach Char Morett also is confirmed for Philadelphia and other Penn State head coaches and the events they are attending will be announced later this month.

The Penn State Coaches Caravan will feature two stops on each of nine days of the tour spread over three consecutive weeks this spring, starting April 30 in Philadelphia. Three of the Coaches Caravan events will be held at Penn State Commonwealth campuses in Altoona, Erie and Hazleton.

Complete details and registration information for every stop on the Penn State Coaches Caravan tour are available at www.GoPSUsports.com and www.alumni.psu.edu/coachescaravan.

Penn State Coaches Caravan schedule:

April 30      Philadelphia (lunch)

                          Drexel Hill, Pa. (evening)

May 1         Baltimore (lunch)

                          Washington, D.C. (evening)

May 2         Richmond, Va. (breakfast)

                          Harrisburg/Hershey, Pa. (evening)

May 8         Penn State Hazleton (lunch)

                          Lehigh Valley, Pa. (evening)

May 9         Woodbridge, N.J. (lunch)

                          New York City (evening)

May 10       Hartford, Conn. (lunch)

                          Scranton, Pa. (evening)

May 14       Penn State Altoona (breakfast)

                          Pittsburgh (evening)

May 15       Youngstown, Ohio (lunch)

                          Cleveland, Ohio (evening)

May 16       Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (lunch)

                          Buffalo, N.Y. (evening)

Comments Off on New Penn State Coach O’Brien to Visit Baltimore in May

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Can the Caps Shock the Defending Champs?

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Ed Frankovic

If you are a hockey fan this is the best time of the year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is a two month stretch like no other in sports and the reward is one of the most coveted trophies going. For Washington Capitals fans, this is also a traditional time of great hope typically followed by torment and frustration. You see those of us who have supported this team from its’ inception in the 1974-75 season are still waiting for the first visit from Lord Stanley to the local franchise.

The last few years have renewed the promise of a championship that Capitals fans started feeling back in the 1980’s and 90’s but unfortunately, the endings that came with it then have once again returned recently. Great regular seasons were abruplty ended by seemingly out of nowhere losing streaks in 2010 and 2011. This after the crushing game seven losses to the Flyers and Penguins in 2008 and 2009, respectively. New Capitals fans, and there are many of them and that is a good thing, can now understand what the long time sufferers have endured. The rite of spring around here for hockey fans often leads to group therapy sessions on the links after the first or second round of the playoffs.

Ironically, it has been some of the Capitals teams that have struggled in the regular season that have had the best playoff runs in team history. The 1990 Caps crew coached by Terry Murray finished two games under .500 but knocked off the Devils and Rangers before losing to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then in 1998, the 4th seeded Caps beat Boston, Ottawa, and Buffalo before Ron Wilson’s club was swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals. Both Murray and Wilson were first year Capitals coaches in those seasons (Murray took over for his brother, Bryan).

This year, the Caps are a 7th seed after a rough regular season that saw Dale Hunter come in after just 22 games to replace Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. Washington, who were picked by many back in October to win the Eastern Conference, appears to be flying under the radar if you read most of the national and local series previews and predictions.

So can this crew of players, who underachieved in the first 82 games, find a way to knock off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins?

Let’s take a closer look.

My first reaction when the matchup was established was that I did not want the Caps to play the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Bruins have experience at winning in the post season and they have two players who are among the best at their position in the entire league in defensemen Zdeno Chara and goalie Tim Thomas. However, Boston has been the hunted all season and they will have pressure to win again. The Caps have had a subpar regular season but outside of in net, they are finally healthy at the right time.

One would have to think the Capitals have yet to play their best hockey simply because they have had the key injuries. Boston’s best stretch came in November and December when they were nearly unbeatable. There are lots of good forwards on Boston but to me, the most important one is Patrice Bergeron. From a media standpoint he is an “under the radar” guy but everyone in the NHL knows how good this guy really is. #37 makes it happen for Boston and if Washington can find a way to slow him down then that could prove decisive. This series should be a very tight checking one and to me the team that takes care of the puck the best will win.

When it comes to series matchups, the one to watch is definitely Alexander Ovechkin vs. Zdeno Chara. There is no doubt that #33 loves playing against the Great 8 and he will use his stick and size to try and slow Ovechkin down. Alex has a major speed advantage so Hunter will need to try to find a way to get Ovechkin moving when he is approaching Chara. Alex also has to find a way to effectively use his teammates. His play away from the puck will be key to this matchup. If he plays strong in his own zone and creates some turnovers, he will get breakaways and/or odd man rushes. If he doesn’t bear down below the blue line then he will be easily neurtralized.

The difference, after turnovers, is going to be goaltending. If Braden Holtby remains composed and plays the way the whole organization knows he can play, then the Capitals have a chance to advance. #70 must be smart on when to be aggressive and help his defense by moving the puck. The Bruins are big and like to pound defensemen so Holtby’s stick handling could neutralize the forechecking ability of Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Tim Thomas runs hot and cold. It is vitally important that the Capitals get a lot of traffic on him. He can be rattled and guys like Matt Hendricks, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, and Brooks Laich need to do that by crashing the crease.

The Capitals won three of the four regular season games and the one loss came with a depleted lineup (no Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, or Oveckhin plus Laich was injured in the middle frame). I’ve never been one to base playoff predictions off of regular season records, but statistics guru Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) tweeted that 77% of the time the team that won the regular season series is victorious in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So the Caps have that going for them….which is nice.

But surely Washington won’t be able to knock off a deep and experienced Bruins club, right? After the regular season Washington had, this should be easy pickings for the B’s, correct?

I say, not so fast. This is not a bad matchup for Washington and they should be able to use their speed guys like Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera to take advantage of Boston’s defense. As I said above, if Holtby holds up and the Caps limit their turnovers, they are right in it.

Call me crazy, call me a homer, call me whatever you want, but I say, yes, the Caps are gonna shock the NHL and knock off the defending champs in six games.

Comments (2)

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

Caps Playoff Hopes Take Huge Hit

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals Coach Dale Hunter called Tuesday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings a “game 7” type of affair. Unfortunately, this one was like the game seven against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, a one-sided blow out by the visitors. The only good news on the night? Washington has five games remaining and still can make the postseason, but now they’ll need help.

The difference in this game started with the most important position in hockey, goalie.

Braden Holtby, who has performed nicely since his recall from Hershey last week, made a terrible stick handling mistake to give the Sabres an early easy goal then he struggled with his rebound conrol. His defense, notably John Carlson (-3) and Jeff Schultz (-2), went to sleep on him and the Sabres built a 3-0 lead early into the middle frame. That spelled the end of Holtby and on came Michal Neuvirth.

Alexander Semin scored to cut it to 3-1 and with Buffalo losing defensemen Christian Ehroff to an injury for the game and Andrej Sekera in the locker room for the end of the second frame, it looked like the Capitals had a chance to get back in it when blue liner Robyn Regehr was called for hooking with 3:07 to go. But Alexander Ovechkin misplayed a puck at the left point and Jason Pominville went in on a two on one and beat Neuvirth to pretty much end this game. The Sabres added a third period marker and left town 5-1 victors and control of their own destiny.

Ryan Miller stopped 44 of 45 shots for the Sabres but the Caps rarely got to the net for rebounds. Miller is one of the best netminders in the league and he has been on the top of his game as Buffalo has put together a meteoric rise to seize the last playoff spot with less than two weeks left in the regular season.

The Caps, who recently had a successful critical road trip at 2-2-1, followed that up with a dud of a three game home stand going 1-1-1. With games at Boston, Tampa, and the Rangers plus two home games against Montreal and Florida, things are not looking good for General Manager George McPhee’s crew. The Capitals will have to go 5-0 or 4-1 to likely make it as Buffalo faces Pittsburgh and Toronto on home ice while traveling to Toronto, Boston, and Philadelphia. With the way Miller is going in net, they might not lose.

As for Washington, this team has been wildly inconsistent and as I’ve chronicled here all year, they will continue to be that way with their weak play up the middle of the ice. Nicklas Backstrom has been cleared to return but the question remains, is he ready for NHL action at the most intense time of the year? It seems risky to put #19 back in but it may be the Capitals only hope because the crew of Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault, and Marcus Johansson have not done the job at the pivot spot to allow this club to put a winning streak together.

The bottom line now is the Caps need at least four wins, and possibly five in a row to make the post season. Given what we’ve seen for the first 77 games, that seems highly unlikely, but that is why they play the games.

Backstrom back or not, they’ll need top notch goaltending and better play from their defensemen. On Tuesday night they did not get that and now their season is totally on the line.

Notes: the Caps won the faceoff battle 37-23 and outshot the Sabres 45-31 but Buffalo made the most of their quality scoring chances…the Caps went 0 for 4 on the power play and gave up a shorthanded tally. The Sabres were 0 for 1  with the man advantage…Washington’s next game is in Boston on Thursday. The Sabres play the Penguins in Buffalo on Friday night.

Comments (4)