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Philipp Grubauer makes 26 saves to give the Capitals a chance to win the game in overtime.

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Grubauer Leads Caps in OT Victory Over Florida

Posted on 31 October 2015 by Ed Frankovic

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 3:44 into overtime and the Capitals rode the stellar goaltending of back up Philipp Grubauer to snatch a 2-1 victory against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night in Sunrise.

For the first time in 10 games this NHL season, the Caps found themselves in the extra session. With the rules modified in the off season to make the game three on three, vice four on four, it would be interesting to see how Coach Barry Trotz would play things. So instead of being immediately aggressive, Trotz started with two defensemen, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, and forward Nicklas Backstrom. That strategy paid off for the first shift before the Caps skill took over and the winning tally occurred with Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Dmitry Orlov on the ice. On that game winner Kuzya adeptly broke to the net after both Florida defenders thought he’d drop the puck to the Gr8. #92 beat Cats goalie Al Montoya (25 saves) down low and Washington will now leave town on Monday afternoon, after a day off on the beach on Sunday, with a record of 8-2.

Let’s be honest, if this was last season and Justin Peters is in net, the Caps lose this game.

Grubauer (26 saves) was that good and if he doesn’t make several key stops throughout the game, including a breakaway in the second period when it was 1-0, Florida, the Caps lose in regulation. The German goalie was excellent against the Panthers and the Washington players have to feel really good to know that they can play that poorly and sloppily in stretches and still sneak out a victory.

It was far from a pretty win and the Panthers size and tenacity frustrated Washington most of the night. The Caps struggled to break out of their own zone effectively, often making poor decisions and bad passes. The best break outs were on skate outs, and Orlov was one of the better ones at doing that (RIP Adam Oates and his “get rid of the puck in five feet” mandate). It was so ugly that early in the second period, after Grubauer saved the Caps bacon once again, Coach Barry Trotz chewed his team a new one on the bench.

The Capitals would be better, at times, after that, but there were several guys who just didn’t have it on this night.

One player who brought his game in the third period and overtime was Ovechkin. The Gr8 was one of the few Capitals who was winning board battles and moving his feet. Ovi set up Jay Beagle’s game tying tally and his mere presence opened up a lane for Kuznetsov on the winning goal.

Beagle, despite two offensive zone penalties, was good too and earned extra ice time. In fact, it was Kuznetsov who saw his time cut in the third frame for #83. If not for Beagle, Ovechkin, and of course, Grubauer, Kuzya doesn’t get the chance to redeem himself for one of his poorer performances of the season, up until that point. But as they say, there is no substitute for skill, especially with the new regular season overtime rules!

Overall, the Caps went two and one this week despite playing very uneven hockey. But the mark of a good team is one that finds a way to win when it doesn’t have anywhere close to its “A” game. The Capitals brought their “C” game on Saturday, but thanks to Grubauer, they were able to endure and win in overtime.

After practice in Florida on Monday, it’s on to New York for a rematch with the Rangers. I’m sure the players haven’t forgotten the game seven overtime loss last spring. Washington had a series of bad clears and icings in that overtime which led to Derek Stepan’s series winner. Bad clears have crept back in to Washington’s game lately, hopefully they get that corrected in time for Tuesday, otherwise a New York team that is off to a 7-2-2 start will run the Capitals out of Madison Square Garden.

Notes: As bad as the Caps were on their breakouts, the Panthers only had 19 of their 27 shots on net at even strength (the Caps were 3 for 3 on the penalty kill allowing eight SOG). Washington turned the puck over a lot, but they did do a good job of limiting Panthers opportunities, especially rebounds. Brooks Orpik and the Caps blue liners were able to clear away any loose pucks around Grubauer. Most importantly, #31 didn’t allow many of those. He was razor sharp…the Caps out shot attempted the Cats, 48-44. 92 shot attempts in a game is not a lot and it shows how sloppy both teams were…the Capitals won the face off battle, 30-25. Backstrom was 13-9… John Carlson led the Caps in ice time with 28:19 and Orpik was second with 24:37… Brooks Laich, Andre Burakovsky, and Chandler Stephenson all played less than 10 minutes…Orlov only logged 12:50 and Nate Schmidt played 10:39 as the third defensive pair. Basically, Coach Trotz rode three lines and two defensive pairs for most of this contest.

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Washington finds a way to win against a pesky Blue Jackets squad, 2-1.

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Oshie & Williams Score in Caps Victory Over Columbus

Posted on 30 October 2015 by Ed Frankovic

When you play against a John Tortorella coached squad, the game is rarely pretty. That was the case at the Verizon Center on Friday night as the Capitals managed to do enough to defeat a pesky Columbus club, 2-1.

Justin Williams scored the first goal in the latter half of period two for the Caps. Karl Alzner did a super job of pinching in from the point and that allowed Marcus Johansson to feed Williams above the right circle for a shot that Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t really see, thanks to a Nicklas Backstrom screen. The Caps buzzed the tower in the last 10 minutes of period two, but somehow “Bob” (28 saves) kept his club in it.

In the third period, Columbus found some legs for the early part of the stanza before the Caps started to take over possession-wise with their first and second lines. It would be the first line who would give Washington a cushion it would really need down the stretch. Braden Holtby (29 saves) used his great puck handling ability to lift one high off of the glass for a clear on the left wing boards and that sprung Alex Ovechkin on a three on one break with Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. The Gr8 had a lane to the net, but instead of shooting he sent a beautiful pass that split the Columbus defense. The recipient of the pass, Backstrom, then teed it up perfectly for Oshie, who buried it under the cross bar with 8:01 left to make it 2-0.

The Blue Jackets would score at 14:45 in a goal mouth scramble that Coach Barry Trotz challenged. The Washington bench boss felt that Holtby was interfered with on the play. He was, and it was worse than what Jay Beagle was whistled for earlier in the season in the San Jose game, but go figure?

Fortunately, the Capitals clamped down and preserved the win to send Torts and company to a 2-9 record. Washington moves to 7-2 and will face the Panthers on Halloween night at 7 pm in Sunrise.

Backstrom, Williams, Ovechkin, Oshie, and Johansson had very strong games up front for the Caps. That second line was really the key to the victory. In addition, Matt Niskanen, Alzner, Nate Schmidt, and Dmitry Orlov were very good on the back end. Alzner got hit and shaken up early in period two and then came back to play a monster game. King Karl and Niskanen were downright dominant as a pair. Schmidt, who saw his first game action since the San Jose loss, performed better and better as the game went on. He was skating well and making solid clears. His only weakness is his size, which makes it tough for him in goal mouth scrambles. But #88 was really good against Columbus.

On the downside, the Capitals third line, which had to face the Blue Jackets best line, struggled for most of the night. Tom Wilson took two penalties that were unnecessary. You can add Brooks Orpik’s delay of game infraction to that list. #44 needed to make a pass in a situation where he had time with the biscuit. Instead, Columbus received an early third period power play when down just a puck.

However ugly it was, and a good chunk of the game was sloppy hockey, especially the first 30 minutes, the Capitals did what they had to do to defeat a desperate team. Good teams find ways to win close games and so far the Caps have been fairly good at that. 7-2 is an excellent start and another win in the division is important. The Caps are now 3-1 against their Metropolitan foes.

Notes: Andre Burakovsky was having a decent game and then he got hit in the head by Oshie’s stick and barely played in the third period. Overall, he only logged 7:09 of ice time…Michael Latta, who was back in after missing six games, only played 3:55 and Brooks Laich just 7:28. The performance of the 3rd and 4th lines is a bit of a concern right now…the Caps out shot attempted Columbus, 55-50, but shots on net favored the Blue Jackets at 30-28…Face offs were pretty much even, with the Caps short by one win (29-28). Beagle was 9-7, Backstrom 8-7, but Laich was 1-4.

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Looking under the tent at the end of a freeway in the heat of Florida...

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 17 Tampa Bay Rays

Posted on 23 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Tampa Bay – I don’t hate the place. I’ve seen some big games there – most notably Game 7 of ALCS when the Devil Rays beat the Boston Red Sox in 2005 on the biggest stage. It’s a dome. It’s at the edge of the freeway. But I defy you to go to that ballpark and not feel some weird sense of hominess. The Rays are cool. The concessions are old school but they’ve clearly tried very hard. I just don’t hate it. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of a cool place to fly away watch the Orioles play. You can lay on the beach all day and then go inside where it’s nice and cozy and comfortable and watch a Major League Baseball game. You can pet the Rays. See some Ted Williams relics. Watch a decent team. Sorry, haters. I like Tropicana. It ain’t great. But it’s far from the worst experience of going to a MLB game. I always enjoy watching a game there.


On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 01 April 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Golf-PGA Tour Shell Houston Open (Thursday & Friday 3pm live on Golf Channel Saturday & Sunday 1pm live on Golf Channel 3pm live on NBC. All golf from Humble, TX), LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship (Thursday & Friday 6pm Saturday & Sunday 5pm from Rancho Mirage, CA live on Golf Channel); Auto Racing: NASCAR Duck Commander 500 (Sunday 3pm from Fort Worth, TX live on FOX)

10. Mike Birbiglia (Friday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); Judah Friedlander (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Tuesday-Friday Baltimore Arena); Captain America: The Winter Soldier” out in theaters (Friday); Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

Judah Friedlander has GREAT hats.

Also, this was a wonderful part of Anchorman 2.

9. Crowded Streets: Dave Matthews Band Tribute (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Scott Stapp (Sunday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); The Lone Bellow (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage Thursday 8pm Capitol Theatre); Childish Gambino (Tuesday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Grouplove/MS MR/Smallpools (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), The Hold Steady (Monday 7pm 9:30 Club); Los Lonely Boys (Tuesday 7:30pm The Hamilton); Dream Theater (Tuesday 7pm Lincoln Theater); Rocket From The Crypt (Saturday 9pm Black Cat); Nickel Creek “A Dotted Line” and Chevelle “La Gargola” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Drew Forrester and I will be at The Lone Bellow Thursday night in York. Zach Williams from TLB will be on “The Reality Check” Tuesday. These are exciting times.

You know what, here’s more of The Lone Bellow. They’re THAT good. They do a John Prine song in this one.

More Lone Bellow? MORE LONE BELLOW.

Oh and also Nickel Creek. Because…also…Nickel Creek.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Tennis-The Dream Cup Barbados (Friday & Saturday 6pm from Bridgetown, Barbados live on ESPN3.com); Running: Baltimore City Turkey Trot 5K (Thursday 8:30am Druid Hill Park)

10. The Bridge (Wednesday 9pm Rams Head Live); Cara Kelly and the Tell Tale (Wednesday 8pm 8×10 Club); Charm City Devils/The Brian Jack Memorial Concert (Wednesday 8pm Baltimore Soundstage); Herman’s Hermits (Saturday 6pm & 9pm Rams Head on Stage); Alice Smith (Friday 7:30pm Howard Theatre), Kelly Rowland (Sunday 8pm Howard Theatre); Rob Zombie (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club); Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Friday -Sunday 8pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); MGMT (Tuesday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Brian Setzer Orchestra (Friday 8pm Warner Theatre); Michael McDonald (Saturday 8pm Strathmore); Foxes (Saturday 7pm U Street Music Hall); Billie Joe & Norah “Foreverly” and M.I.A. “Matangi” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Baltimore is better when The Bridge is together.

I saw CCD do a tribute to Brian Jack at the Recher Theatre a year or so ago. Baltimore rock and roll isn’t as great without him.

I’m going to try to get to the Sunday Preservation Hall show. I could listen to them play Christmas tunes all month.

You know what? Same thing with Michael McDonald. Judge away.

9. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Thursday 9am from New York live on NBC); Bobcat Goldthwait (Friday & Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Donnell Rawlings (Friday-Sunday DC Improv); Despicable Me 2“, “Red 2” and “Jobs” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Frozen” and “Homefront” out in theaters (Friday)

I’d be more excited about flicks coming out, but none of them are ‘The Wolf of Wall Street”. There isn’t a movie I want to see more than “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Other than maybe this.

Also because Kate Bosworth is in “Homefront”, this photo of Kate Bosworth’s legs is relevant.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Former Loyola lax standout Ross named MLL head coach

Posted on 21 November 2013 by WNST Staff

Loyola MLAX Alumnus Stan Ross Named Head Coach Of MLL’s Launch

BOSTON – Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse alumnus Stan Ross ’95 was named the head coach of the newly formed Florida Launch, a Major League Lacrosse team that will begin play in 2014.

Ross was most recently an assistant coach for the Denver Outlaws as they completed the MLL’s first-ever undefeated regular-season with a 14-0 record.

The Launch, which will play its home games in Palm Beach County, will be comprised of the foundation of the Hamilton Nationals roster, according to the MLL.

“It is an honor to be named the first head coach in Florida Launch history,” Ross said in a release issued by the league. “I am thankful to the organization and the MLL for allowing me this opportunity to coach a professional team in my home state.  Lacrosse is growing rapidly in Florida, and the addition of a local professional team will be a huge catalyst for expansion of our sport in the area.  I feel the Florida Launch will be welcomed with open arms by the Florida lacrosse community.”

Prior to joining the Outlaws’ staff, Ross was an assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy from 2007-2011 where he coordinated both the offensive and defensive units for current United States National Team coach Richie Meade. He was the head coach at Butler University from 2004-2006, and he spent seven years as an assistant at Towson University (1998-2004).

He also had coaching stints at Princeton University (1997) and the University of Denver (1996); Ross started his coaching career at Loyola as an undergraduate assistant coach for the Greyhounds in 1995.

In his three years on the field for Loyola, Ross played in 38 games as a close defender, picked up 99 ground balls, had a goal and an assist. He was a three-sport standout at nearby Boys’ Latin School before coming to the Evergreen campus.

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Ravens agree to four-year deal with first-round safety Elam

Posted on 18 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With rookies scheduled to report to Owings Mills for the start of training camp on Sunday, the Ravens announced Thursday that they’ve agreed in principle to a four-year deal with first-round safety Matt Elam.

The contract will be officially signed when Elam arrives at the team’s facility along with the rest of the rookie class, quarterbacks, and injured veterans on Sunday. The 32nd overall pick from the University of Florida, Elam is the last of the Ravens’ 10 draft picks to ink his contract.

His deal includes an option for a fifth year and was never considered in doubt to be completed by the start of camp with the NFL’s slotting system that’s eliminated the past drama of rookie signings since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed two summers ago. Elam didn’t hire an agent, instead relying on his older brother and veteran NFL safety Abram Elam and other advisors for guidance in completing the rookie deal.

The slotted amount for the 32nd pick of the draft is worth a total of $6.767 million over the four years and includes a $3.3 million signing bonus. Elam’s 2013 cap number is projected to be $1.231 million.

The 5-foot-10, 210-pound safety is expected to compete with veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety job next to free-agent acquisition Michael Huff in the revamped Baltimore secondary. Elam played in 39 career games for the Gators, starting his final 26 contests and collecting 176 tackles, six interceptions, 24 tackles for a loss, and five sacks.

“We’re both interchangeable,” Huff said during spring organized team activities. “We can both play strong safety, free safety, we can both play the nickel. We can do it all, so that way, offenses don’t know who’s doing what before the snap. I think it will help the defense.”

While Huff faces the difficult task of following in the footsteps of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed at free safety, Elam is expected to bring a physical presence similar to departed strong safety Bernard Pollard, who punished opponents with big hits and often played closer to the line of scrimmage.

In his final season in Gainesville as a junior, Elam became the second safety in school history to be named a first-team All-American, with Reggie Nelson being the first in 2006.

In April, Elam became the ninth defensive player to be selected in the first round by general manager Ozzie Newsome in the 18-year history of the franchise. He will join linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and cornerback Jimmy Smith as former first-round picks selected by Baltimore who are on the current defense.

As the first of four straight defensive players — second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown, third-round nose tackle Brandon Williams, and fourth-round outside linebacker John Simon being the others — to be selected by the Ravens at the head of their 2013 draft class, Elam understands expectations will be high to continue the tradition of great Baltimore defense despite an offseason full of changes.

“I don’t want anything given, because if it’s given, it’s not earned,” Elam said in late April. “With two great safeties leaving, I feel like it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and keep on improving and do the great things that they did and win championships and win games.”

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Let’s just call this “Matt Elam Web Junk”

Posted on 26 April 2013 by Glenn Clark

As we get to know the Baltimore Ravens’ first round pick (#32 overall), Florida S Matt Elam, there’s a lot of fun stuff to be found.

I’d first suggest you click over here for a good compilation of Elam highlights we found on YouTube in order to get a better feel for the former UF strong safety as a player. I would also suggest you read this VERY significant longform story from Fox Sports Florida about the amount of tragedy Elam has had to overcome in his life and why he wore #22 in Gainesville.

Perhaps the best Matt Elam-related image I can share is this GIF of him celebrating teammate Louchiez Purifoy by…well…tackling him?

My next favorite Elam GIF would be this interaction with LSU WR Odell Beckham after a hard hit. Elam thought he hit Beckham with the CM Punk-style “Go To Sleep”, but Beckham hit right back with the John Cena “You Can’t See Me”.

I was a bit stunned that I couldn’t find a GIF of Elam’s HUGE hit on Louisville RB Jeremy Wright in the Gators’ Sugar Bowl loss. So I quickly made one.

Elam showed his fire against Florida State, where apparently there is a good amount of history of bad blood.

Elam is on Twitter (@ElamVsElo). Unfortunately the first Tweet he sent after being picked by the Ravens didn’t tell us anything other than the fact that he is doing some promotional work with Tide. (Elam did hold a conference call with the Baltimore media that you can hear here.)

There is some other gold over at Elam’s Twitter account however. From the world of “more random than Random House” category, Elam had a Draft party scheduled for Friday night in Palm Springs with fellow former Gator Jon Bostic and…former Towson Safety Jordan Dangerfield??? (We’re guessing he might not make the party…he’s scheduled to be introduced to the Charm City media at a 3pm press conference Friday.)

Elam made an appearance on the NFL Network show “NFL AM” ahead of the NFL Draft. While he was there he hung out with teammate-to-be Jacoby Jones and former Ravens CB Deion Sanders…

A Florida fan made an Elam meme that we’re certainly hoping will be true in his NFL career…

Elam is already receiving praise from Brian Billick, a man who knows a thing or two about drafting a good safety.

Ravens fans might also be surprised to see that even ESPN’s Skip Bayless (who many Baltimoreans view as a nemesis) is on board with the Elam pick.

Here’s some REALLY high praise of Elam from CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco.

That’s probably about it for tonight. I’m sure we’ll find more tomorrow. Thanks for playing along and welcome to Charm City, Matt.

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Ovechkin Hat Trick Propels Caps over Cats

Posted on 06 April 2013 by Ed Frankovic

Alexander Ovechkin is on fire and all of the national media critics who trashed him this year have egg all over their faces right now, especially Mike Milbury and PJ Stock. The Gr8 poured in three goals and added an assist as the Caps raced out to a 4-0 lead before giving up a tally with 32 seconds left to hang on 4-3 against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise on Saturday night.

Ovechkin now has 23 goals and 18 points in 38 games (tied for 7th in NHL scoring). He is second to Steven Stamkos (25 goals) in the NHL goal scoring race and in an 82 game season his goal total projects to just under 50. Yeah, he’s washed up and the team shouldn’t give him the puck.

The victory over a Florida squad that had won three in a row coming in pushes the Caps to 19-17-2 with 10 games left. Washington has 40 points, as does Winnipeg, but the Jets only have eight games to go.

Piece of cake for the Capitals to win the Southeast division, right?

Not so fast. For all of the good that happened in this one, there was one big bit of bad news. Trade deadline acquisition Martin Erat had to be helped to the dressing room after Panthers defensemen Erik Gudbranson boarded #10. The result was a five minute major and game misconduct for the Florida player but for Washington, it could be worse as Erat looked like he was in pain and the injury could be more than just a minor one. This comes on the heels of Brooks Laich missing Saturday’s contest.

So just when it seemed that Washington had a really solid forward lineup with balance, injuries to Erat and Laich have thrust that into turmoil once again. It’s no coincidence that Ovechkin’s hot streak (13 goals in 13 games) occurred once the Caps overall team started returning to health. Opponents could not totally focus on the Gr8 when Adam Oates had a full lineup but if 21 and 10 are out awhile, it will make it easier for opposing head coaches to do that now.

But before getting discouraged, Mike Green’s great play, after returning to 100%, is as big a factor as any of this as #52 is such a key in Washington’s breakout and he is superb at the point on the power play. The Caps had three PP goals in this one, two of which were by Ovechkin. The Gr8 has 14 PPG’s this season to lead the NHL and noone else even has 10.

In addition, you can’t discount the play of Marcus Johansson, who once healthy, has been a different player. MJ90 once again looks like the guy who showed such promise in the spring of 2011. He is a great skater and is a good passer, but he doesn’t have a great shot and he doesn’t always look to shoot. If he can keep playing at this level, and that is asking an awfully lot of him, then Washington should be able to hold off the Jets in the division race.

But the Caps can’t afford another big injury. They also need to tighten up their defensive zone when leading. Too many times they are giving up goals in front when they have players in position to make a play. In fairness, the team let down a bit after being up four pucks and Braden Holtby will likely tell you the first and third goals were on him.

Still, the Capitals top line is rolling. Nicklas Backstrom had three more assists and he has six goals and 33 assists for 39 points (tied for 11th in NHL) in 38 games. #19 has looked more comfortable and back to his usual dominant self since being reunited with Ovechkin a few weeks ago.

So there is still a lot to be positive about with this Capitals team despite the concern once again at left wing due to injuries. But Washington doesn’t have much margin for error due to their poor 2-8-1 start. They’ll need to keep the hammer down and ride the hot hand of Ovechkin down the stretch.

Where’s Milbury?! Hahahahaha

Notes: Oates was able to spread out the ice time with the big lead which should help Washington in their last back to back game of 2013, Sunday night at 7pm at the Verizon Center against Tampa…Green led the team in ice time with just 22:32…the Caps were 3 for 5 on the power play while Florida was 1 for 2…Washington outshot the Cats, 31-30, but Florida had a 16-5 third period edge when the game was pretty much over…shot attempts for the game were 58-45 in favor of the Caps…the face off battle was won by Washington, 29-26.


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Caps Blowout Win Helps Weekend Cause

Posted on 07 March 2013 by Ed Frankovic

The Florida Panthers rolled into Washington DC and were promptly blown out of the Nation’s Capital again by a 7-1 score. The Cats have real poor goaltending right now and are experiencing injuries galore, so it was no surprise that the Capitals ran them out of the Verizon Center on Thursday night. It was 4-0 just over eight minutes into this one so it really wasn’t much of a contest, at all.

Simply put, the Capitals are a streaking team right now and are playing with confidence. This victory makes it eight wins in the last 11 games and improves their record to 10-11-1 overall. They are 6-0 against the Southeast Division over this run and they trail division leading Carolina by six points, but have a game in hand. There are 26 games left for Washington to play this season and they have really righted the ship after a 2-8-1 start.

This club is coming together under Adam Oates and I will once again blog about the plusses of his great hockey mind. Oates knows that the Caps have a critical stretch coming up starting Saturday where they will face the Islanders, then the Rangers on Sunday, followed by a home and home with Carolina on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. A 2-1-1 or better stretch and the Caps can start thinking about playoff possibilities and becoming buyers before the NHL trade deadline set for April 3rd.

So what did the old #77 do when his team got up by four pucks early? He started resting some of his key players. Check the ice times out, Karl Alzner played just under 18 minutes and John Carlson didn’t even hit the 17 minute mark. Both of those guys have been logging 22 plus minutes lately. In addition, the bench boss was able to roll his forward lines the rest of the contest as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Ribeiro were also in the 16 to 17 minute range, below their season averages by quite a bit. The Gr8 still managed to get a goal and two assists with the limited ice time.

Braden Holtby made 29 saves, some of the key variety, but you can expect him to go back to back this weekend the way he is going. Only a late defensive breakdown cost #70 a fourth shutout this season. Holtby is in a groove and seems to know where the shots are coming from as Washington is playing their system well. His ability to play the puck also aids the Caps breakout and takes pressure off of their defensemen. Oates watched how New Jersey used Martin Brodeur’s stickhandling prowess and now he is using Holtby’s similar skills to his advantage.

The Caps can enjoy this win for the night but they won’t face crummy goaltending on Long Island on Saturday where they’ll likely go up against Evgeny Nabokov. Then they probably face “King Henrik” Lundqvist at the Verizon Center on Sunday. Both of those guys are huge upgrades over what they shot against on Thursday.

So it’s a good thing Oates got an early lead and alertly planned accordingly, because the Caps will need to be firing on all cylinders for a tough weekend set with the teams from the Big Apple.

Notes: Wojtek Wolski had his second straight quality game after his benching last Saturday in Winnipeg. #17 had a goal and two assists. He is winning the one on one battles, as evidenced by Washington’s second goal where he won the puck on the backboards and came out in front of the cage and jammed the biscuit home…Steve Oleksy played his 2nd NHL game and led the team with 22+ minutes of ice time. The 27 year old D-man had two assists, as well…Troy Brouwer returned after missing Tuesday’s tilt vs Boston due to illness and had two assists in 16:29 of action.


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