Tag Archive | "mason"

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Towson Tries Again to Snap Streak Wednesday at Drexel on WNST

Posted on 04 January 2012 by WNST Staff

SETTING THE STAGE: Towson will play its first CAA road game Wednesday against CAA Preseason favorite Drexel after hosting George Mason and Northeastern in the Tigers’ first two league games. The game, set to tip from the Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia at 7 p.m., can be heard live on WNST-AM (1570).

ROAD WARRIORS: Starting Wednesday, Towson will play three of its next four games on the road.The last time the Tigers were on the road, they played perhaps their best game of the season at No. 23 Virginia. Towson led by as many as eight and the Cavaliers could never extend their advantage to double digits in the game.

FAMILIAR FOE: Towson and Drexel played three times last year and the Dragons eliminated the Tigers from the CAA Tournament with a 75-69 opening round victory. Drexel has won five straight in the series and Towson has not won in Philadelphia since Jan. 12, 2002.

DEFENSE & REBOUNDING: Tiger head coach Pat Skerry has preached defense and rebounding to his players since the start of preseason and lately they have been getting the message. Towson has held three straight opponents to 65 points or fewer and consecutive foes to less than 60 points, including No. 23 Virginia. The Tigers rank sixth in the CAA in both rebounding margin (+1.6) and blocked shots (3.7 bpg). Towson has corralled 39.6 percent of its offensive misses this season, a mark that leads the CAA. Both Robert Nwankwo and Marcus Damas rank in the Top 15 in the CAA in rebounding.

LEADING FRESHMAN: Towson point guard Kris Walden leads all CAA freshmen and ranks ninth in the league in assists per game. Walden is averaging 3.1 dimes per contest.

LAST TIME OUT: Despite a career-high 14 points from sophomore Erique Gumbs, Northeastern pulled out a 57-48 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Towson Monday night. Gumbs, who made five of nine shots from the floor, added six rebounds and two blocked shots to his impressive stat line. Tiger sophomore Marcus Damas added 14 points for his seventh double figure scoring effort in the last eight games. Freshman Jervon Pressley scored a career-high 11 points and had six rebounds in the loss.

Towson outrebounded Northeastern, 36-28, but the Huskies took advantage of 19 Tiger turnovers that they turned into 28 points.

SCOUTING THE DRAGONS: Drexel (8-5, 0-2 CAA) had a six-game winning streak snapped Monday at Georgia State. The Dragons are a perfect 4-0 at home this season, winning by an average of 9.5 points per game. Preseason All-CAA First Team selection Samme Givens leads Drexel in both scoring (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg). Chris Fouch led Drexel with 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting at Georgia State Monday.

The Dragons and Tigers have just one common opponent thus far in the season. Drexel lost to Virginia in the Paradise Jam, 49-35, while Towson lost at Virginia, 57-50 just last week.

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Hunter’s Adjustments Propels Caps Comeback

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Hunter’s Adjustments Propels Caps Comeback

Posted on 31 December 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Caps failed to score a first period goal on the road for the sixth straight game and after 40 minutes they trailed 2-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So much for using that start fast formula on the road that they’ve used lately at home that I blogged about last night, eh?!

But since Dale Hunter took over behind the bench this Washington Capitals squad has yet to quit in a game, regardless of the deficit and some lineup juggling by the Caps bench boss ignited a three goal in under three minutes explosion in the final frame. Alexander Ovechkin, who scored the first goal for the Caps, then lasered one by Steve Mason (22 saves) to make it 4-2 and Tomas Vokoun (35 saves) closed the door as the Capitals won their third straight game. It was a huge victory and moves the Caps to 20-15-2 overall. They are now just five points behind Southeast Division leading Florida. Washington has two games in hand.

After Columbus did a good job of shutting down Washington’s top line for 40 minutes, Hunter split them up putting Ovechkin with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer while Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin added Marcus Johansson on left wing. The move gave the Caps energy and took Columbus off of their game plan. On the back end, the defensemen became extremely active and Dennis Wideman (1 goal, 2 assists) turned in a super period paired with Roman Hamrlik. On Ovechkin’s nail in the coffin on the power play, Dmitry Orlov made an intelligent move carrying the puck down the left wing boards and behind the net drawing the defense to him before slipping a sweet pass to the Gr8 who buried it with authority. Make no mistake about this, Orlov continues to get better and deserves to be up with the big club the rest of the season.

I know I mentioned the standings above, but as I’ve pretty much done since Hunter took over, I have tried to ignore them because this club needed to drastically fix its’ play before it could start rising back to the top of the Eastern Conference. After 15 games in under the Capitals legend the team has totally improved on the backend and now that they have corrected that, the offense, as predicted by Hunter, is coming on. Ovechkin, Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom have bought in defensively and they are really starting to reap big rewards for that. The Gr8 is on fire with four goals in his last two games and has nine points in his last six games. Semin’s goal that tied the game was a thing of beauty and he’s had six solid tilts in a row. Backstrom is the team’s MVP so far this season but he’s even gone to a higher level the last couple of weeks.

Another thing to be really encouraged about is the week Vokoun just had in goal. #29 came on in relief on Monday and stopped 16 of 17 shots then went 3-0 as a starter. Vokoun is making the big save at the right time. 14 seconds after Ovechkin tallied to cut it to 2-1, he made a huge stop on Mark Letestu on a quality chance in the slot. If Letestu scores there the game is over. Instead Orlov and Grant Clitsome go off for roughing shortly thereafter and the Capitals score twice on the four on four. I’ve said this so many times, but everything starts for a team in goal and Washington is finally getting some consistent netminding.

For those who watched the post game press conference with Hunter on Comcast, things looked exactly the same from old number 32 for the 15th time despite the dramatic comeback. It was hard to tell whether the team won or lost and Hunts always seems to be on such an even keel. Clearly his club is feeding off of his consistency behind the bench and his competitive drive is contagious.

Winning in Columbus is still no big feat, that Blue Jackets club is pretty bad. The Caps have a Calgary Flames team home on Tuesday before taking off to the west coast to take on some quality Western Conference talent in San Jose and Los Angeles. We’ll have an even better idea how far the team has come after those contests.

Happy New Year!

Notes: The Blue Jackets second goal should not have counted as referees Brad Meier and Francois St. Laurent missed an obvious interference penalty on Derek Dorsett in front of the Washington net. The Columbus pest shoved John Carlson to the ground with the puck on the boards but no call was made. Terrible work from the zebras…the Caps blocked 22 shots while the Blue Jackets only thwarted five. Assistant Coach Jim Johnson says if Washington blocks between 20 and 25 shots in a game that is a good sign…Hamrlik and Wideman were both +3. #44 looks so much better since returning from an early season groin injury. He is a smart player who is excelling in Hunter’s system…Washington won the faceoff battle, 32-31. Jeff Halpern was 8-3…Jeff Schultz had an awful first period giveaway and only played 9:46…Cody Eakin’s recall did necessitate a player going on injured reserve as I mentioned last night, but instead of Mathieu Perreault, the team retroactively put Mike Green in that capacity to meet the 23 man roster limit.

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CAA Showdown Saturday Night on WNST as Towson Hosts George Mason

Posted on 03 December 2011 by WNST Staff

Tigers Open CAA Play Against George Mason Saturday

Towson Men’s Basketball To Face Fifth Team Ranked Or Receiving Votes In National Polls

TOWSON, Md. - The Tigers are set to open Colonial Athletic Association play Saturday evening against rival George Mason. Tip time is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Towson Center and all fans attending the NCAA FCS Football Playoff game at Johnny Unitas® Stadium can attend the Tigers’ men’s basketball game free of charge.

Saturday night’s game can be heard live on AM1570 WNST.net. Coverage begins immediately following the conclusion of the Towson-Lehigh NCAA FCS Playoff game and can be heard here.

Towson (0-6) is coming off an 86-56 setback at UMass on Wednesday evening. Senior Robert Nwankwo posted his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds against the Minutemen.

The Tigers continued to dominate the glass in their last outing, holding a 50-43 rebounding advantage in the loss. Towson has now outrebounded its opponents in all but two games this season.

Including Saturday’s contest, the young Tigers quad will have played five teams ranked or receiving votes in the national polls.

George Mason, which is receiving votes in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, is riding a three-game winning streak and coming off a 61-57 victory over Bucknell. The Patriots are led by Preseason All-CAA First Team honoree Ryan Pearson. The senior ranked in the top-15 of both scoring and rebounding among league players last season, and is the conference’s fifth highest returning scorer. This season Pearson is averaging 20.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Saturday’s game will be the 38th all-time meeting between Towson and George Mason. The Tigers won six of the first nine meetings between the squads, but have won just two of the last 28. George Mason has never lost to Towson as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. Their last loss to the Tigers was a 78-71 defeat in Towson in 1993.

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Calm down, we didn’t want Mason back anyway.

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Calm down, we didn’t want Mason back anyway.

Posted on 09 August 2011 by Mitchell Toland

I’ve heard  A TON of chatter lately on local radio shows and throughout different Baltimore Sports blogs.  Many of you have been expressing your anger over Derrick Mason signing with the Jets and his parting shots at the Ravens.  Yes, Mason did say that he went to New York because he thought it gave him the best chance to win a Super Bowl.  Why are you angry about that? If you got fired from your old job and then a great job offer came from a boss you’ve heard about and he really wants to bring you on board what are you going to do? You’re going to take the job.  You’re not gonna tell people you took that job because it might have been you’re only offer or that you just wanted a pay check.  You’re going to try to talk up the company you are now working for and how much better it is than your old job.

Let’s try it this way.  You’re girlfriend dumps you after you’ve been together for awhile.  You’ve been broken up for a few months and you meet this other great looking girl who’s really into you and always texting you telling you she misses you and all.  Then you’re ex comes back and is like, “Oh, Johnny I see you’re still single I guess we can get back together if you want to.”  You’re going to stay with the new chick if you’re smart and make her your girlfriend than be sure to tell all you’re friends how much better she is than you’re old girlfriend. Probably post a few Facebook statuses about how great the new girlfriend is because you know your ex will see it.  That’s all Mason did.  He just bragged about his new girlfriend after his old one dumped him.  We can’t forget that the Ravens RELEASED Mason.

Mason was great when he was here but he was aging and we didn’t really need two of the same receivers again.  Boldin is a younger Mason, just more physical.  The Ravens will likely try to add a veteran WR to the team before the start of the season.  The youth movement could be great.  With guys like Smith,Doss,Dickson, and Reid getting playing time this year will only make us better for the next 4-5 years.  Would you be upset with an 8-8, 9-7 record if it got these young guys ready for the next few years and really opened a window of great opportunity for the Ravens to compete and win a Super Bowl or two in the next 5 years? Honestly, as much as I love the Ravens and want them to do nothing but winning, if allowing these young guys to grow for a year gives us the next 4-5 years in the playoffs every year and competing for a Super Bowl I’d be OK with it.  I’d still be ticked every time we struggled but I would know the future was brighter.

Mason wasn’t a part of the future.  It was time to move on despite his productivity.  I really believe Flacco will take a huge step forward this year without having Mason on the field.  He will be able to  spread the ball around without having guys like Mason and  Housh on the team.  I think we are all in for a huge surprise from a lot of the young guys like Doss and J.Smith this  year.  We may at times miss Mason on a few third downs but by the end of the season I think we will look back and realize we made up for his production with the new additions. It was time the Ravens moved on and brought in the new wave of Ravens receivers to pair with Boldin and Rice to take this offense to the next level.

In Oz I trust.

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It needs to be said: Good riddance, Derrick Mason!

Posted on 08 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Over the past two weeks I’ve read and heard and watched a myriad of different reactions to the swath of cuts the Baltimore Ravens have made to veteran players and unlike the overwhelming majority of the fan base here, I understand the salary cap and how it works.

(If you have any questions, feel free to forward them along: nasty@wnst.net. That’s why WNST.net exists – to educate you and answer your questions about Baltimore sports.)

Bottom line: the Ravens played about $14 million over the cap last year in a “wild, wild west” uncapped NFL season. In the new post-lockout 2011 season, everyone will need to align franchise expenditures with the reality of the league. For the Ravens, that means playing with less veteran (re: well-paid) talent.

This brings us to wide receiver Derrick Mason, who has somehow at 37 years of age  managed to stir up the fans of Baltimore using his Twitter account and his ever-present voice to make a case for himself as a returning veteran to the Ravens.

He was texting with John Harbaugh. He was talking about other opportunities and greener pastures. He was “shocked” by the Ravens’ cut, which had almost happened two other times over the last two years.

Here’s the truth: the Ravens didn’t want Derrick Mason anymore. And his “pick” of the New York Jets and all of the bluster that Rex Ryan blew around at the press conference about Mason electing to take “less money to play in New York” was just typical Ryanspeak.

Fact: Rex Ryan hates the Ravens more than any NFL team. He barely even speaks to me anymore because he knows I’m a Ravens fan. He stews about not getting the head coaching job every time he looks at me.

Fact: Derrick Mason wasn’t welcomed in Baltimore any more. The Ravens don’t have any cap room and felt that overspending on the clearly devalued stock of an almost-40 wide receiver wasn’t good business for them.

This was a good marriage for Mason and Ryan. It fits both of their needs to get even with the Ravens and to take the “Play Like A Jet” braggadocio to The Big Apple and potentially make another run at a Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and the parting shot? Mason and Ryan both let it be known that they believe they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than the Ravens do.

Fair enough.

And when these teams lock horns here in Baltimore eight weeks, it’s going to look like the NFL’s newest Holy War and if I could wave my magic wand and have it all work out right the Ravens would host the AFC Championship Game and play the mighty titans of New York for all the marbles here in late January.

Baltimore vs. New York? As long as it’s not baseball, I really like our chances!

And because I’ve said this before when Derrick Mason was wearing purple every week, I’ll say it again out of fairness and full disclosure. In my 16 years of chasing the Ravens all across the continent and working every locker room of every game, Mason was one of my least favorite Ravens.

It’s almost blasphemous because for most he was a media dream. He would always set up in front of his locker and welcome the lights and the cameras and the questions and would always fire off long, winding diatribes about his feelings and his insights filling notebooks and video storage devices. And I’m all for a loquacious athlete. It’s good for business all the way around.

Except in Mason’s case, I always thought it was personal and it was overkill. And he was always speaking down to the media, which in my opinion is speaking down to the fans.

Look there’s no getting around it, Derrick Mason was a helluva football player – a classic overachiever in every sense of the word and my respect for his abilities as an athlete is unquestioned. And I’m pretty sure he’s a good family man and an all-around decent human being. He did charitable things here and in Nashville and I know he really wanted to win.

But as a guy who plays on a team with 53 other guys?

You can have a 37-year old Derrick Mason, New York. He’s perfect for you!

He’s all about himself.

Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve talked to enough of his teammates and coaches over the years to know how they feel about him. Helluva player, but he’s gonna bitch loudly and unrepentantly about not getting the ball – win or lose. Many would say he’s a “typical me-first wide receiver” and that’s fine, too.

Last I checked that class full of brats — Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson — all have one thing in common: nude ring fingers!

I saw Mason stew after victories – many times – because he wasn’t the biggest part of the offense that day. I’ve seen him pop off and say all sorts of things that had a very “anti-team” edge to them as I heard them. And I also remember his retirement proceedings on his agent’s website two summers ago.

Apparently, so did Joe Flacco, who amidst the Ravens’ mystery “negotiations” with Mason threw him under the bus by calling him a diva in front of the world 48 hours ago.

I think that says it all.

Sure, there will be days this fall when Flacco would’ve loved having him on 3rd and 6, but the other six days and 21 hours of the week sure sounded like an issue for some folks at The Bellagio in Owings Mills.

And I get it.

But all of this green bluster coming out of New York is just that – another chance for Mason and Ryan to take a few verbal jabs at the Ravens and Baltimore, where they weren’t welcomed anymore.

We’ll see them on Sunday night, Oct. 2 here in Baltimore.

To be continued…

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Ravens Draft Needs

Posted on 26 February 2011 by Michael Schwartz

The Ravens are getting old in many positions on offense and defense. The linebackers are young on one side but old on the other. Terrell Suggs is young and so is the inside linebacker they put next to Ray, but they don’t have a person who is playing next to Ray from week to week. Sometimes it is Jameel McClain and other times it’s Ellerbe. These two guys have been fighting for the job for a year or so and neither has secured it. Obviously, Ray Lewis is old and is going to have to retire sometime. This hurts me to say, because I can’t imagine a Ravens defense without Ray Lewis. I can’t imagine him not coming out of the tunnel on gameday and doing his dance to pump up his team and the crowd. Jarrett Johnson is also getting old and he has been an underrated outside linebacker since coming into the league. The Ravens attempted to address his position last year by drafting Sergio Kindle, but he fell down two flights of stairs and now has a head injury. He wants to come back, but doctors are not so sure. He would have also been a good pass rusher which the Ravens need. The Ravens can get a good linebacker in later rounds; it doesn’t have to be their first rounder. The linebackers will still be playing for a couple of years, but it is something that Ozzie and company must be thinking about.

The wide receivers on the Ravens are pretty old as a group. Boldin, Housh, and Mason all have 600 or more receptions in their career, but Housh and Mason are past their prime. Mason still runs great routes but doesn’t have the same explosiveness he had when he played on the Titans. Housh is not the best role model for the young players that the Ravens have. He gets called for stupid penalties, same with Mason, and he is a possession receiver. Boldin is a physical receiver but isn’t a deep ball threat, he is still in his prime and is someone who will be a Raven in years to come. The Ravens picked up Donte Stallworth in free agency after being suspended for one year. During training camp, he was the deep ball threat that the Ravens had been waiting for. However, when he went in, it was usually a reverse or a fake reverse to him. He wasn’t used as the deep ball threat that he was thought to be. The Ravens drafted David Reed and he was also supposed to have explosiveness. He was rarely used, and has been in some legal trouble as of late. There are many good receivers in this draft such as, Torrey Smith. He attended the University of Maryland, but he is an undersized receiver. He reminds me of Mark Clayton who never panned out as the Ravens planned.

The defensive line has a premier player in Haloti Ngata. He is an all pro and a tremendous player, he is very versatile and can plug up the hole with his sheer size. Cory Redding had injuries for parts of the year, and Terrance Cody is out of shape. He is young but he is overweight and needs to get into shape, because if he doesn’t then the Ravens should get a new nose tackle. The defensive line has had trouble getting to the quarterback for the last couple of years. They had 27 sacks in the 2010-2011 season and were led by outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs had 11 sacks and played his best games against a hated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens tried to get good pass rushers in the draft, Paul Kruger and Kindle were supposed to be good at rushing the quarterback. Kindle is injured and Kruger is no longer a Raven. In the draft there are many young pass rushers, however, Ozzie doesn’t mind trading his first round pick for more picks.

The Ravens secondary is supposed to be their weakest spot, but they are not as bad as fans and analyst’s think. Ed Reed is old but the Ravens have players who have showed they could play safety such as, Zibikowski. He filled in for Reed for the first six games and did a great job, but he is not the playmaker that Ed Reed is. Reed is one of the best playmakers in the NFL and he is contemplating retirement. I don’t think Reed will leave for a year or two but if he does the Ravens have a replacement. The Ravens corners are young; they will get better with years to come. Webb has shown improvement since coming into the league two years ago. Washington is a good corner with great speed. He needs to develop the other aspects of an elite cornerback. Foxworth is the oldest corner but he is the best the Ravens have. He missed all of the 2010-2011 season, but will play next year, if there is a season. The Ravens secondary could use an upgrade at corner, but it is not going to come out of the draft. They can get somebody in free agency, because there are very good corners in the market.

I think that Ozzie is going to end up trading our first round pick and get a second and something else. He will probably draft a wide receiver with good explosiveness and hands. In later rounds he may look into a corner, but he will look for a player that can take over when Lewis is gone. Ozzie is one of the best people in the league at scouting players for the draft. The Ravens usually have good drafts, and that should continue this year.

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Caps Grind Out Win Over Thrashers

Posted on 14 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic

After a lackluster effort in Buffalo on Saturday night that led to a 3-2 overtime loss and the end of their six game winning streak, the Washington Capitals rebounded with a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday evening in front of another sellout at the Verizon Center. John Erskine scored the game winner on a point blast after the Dave Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Matt Hendricks line forced a Thrashers neutral zone turnover. It wasn’t a pretty victory by any stretch of the imagination, but the Capitals grinded it out and as a result they are now 13-4-1 overall and lead the Southeast Division by nine points over second place Tampa, who lost to the Wild at home on Sunday.

This was a wild and sloppy affair primarily because both clubs played on Saturday night and then traveled to DC afterwards. As one would expect in the third game in four nights, there were things to like and not to like in Washington’s victory. Below are the highlights, quotes, and analysis:

- The difference in this tilt was the Steckel line as he, Bradley, and Hendricks were on the ice for the fourth and fifth Capitals goals while not being on for a single tally against. Hendricks was also on for Steckel’s empty net goal. The trio, who were a combined +8 in the game, carried the play on their shifts and with the Washington top line looking out of gas the last 30 minutes, it was essential that the Caps get a victory via one of their other units. Steckel was also a monstrous 19-4 on face-offs and all three players logged at least 14 minutes of ice time as Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau continued to send them out in the third period. I thought this was Steckel’s best game in over a year and reminded me more of the player who was excellent during the 2008-09 regular season and in the playoffs.

- Erskine not only tallied the game winner, but he was engaged in one of the best NHL fights I’ve seen all year with Eric Boulton. Both players exchanged big blows and the Caps received a power play as a result of the altercation being started by Boulton. #4 was officially named the game’s first star and his defensive partner Tyler Sloan had two assists. Both Erskine and #89 were plus two on the day.

- The Caps third tally, that gave them their first two goal lead of the contest, was a thing of beauty. Alexander Oveckhin (1 goal, 1 assist) took the puck down the left wing boards and he made an absolutely perfect saucer pass in the slot to a streaking Alexander Semin. #28 then faked Atlanta starter Chris Mason to the ice and deposited the puck behind him on the backhand. The Caps top line had a super first period to give Washington a 3-1 lead but after that the unit struggled, especially on the power play (more on that in a moment). That first period was, by far, Washington’s best of the season and it was the first time all year they notched more than one goal in the opening stanza (h/t Capitals Media Relations Department).

- Washington continues to score goals as a result of players going to the net. Eric Fehr set up a superb screen on Mike Green’s blast (1 goal, 1 assist), Hendricks goal came on the rebound of another Green shot, and Erskine’s game winner had both Bradley and Hendricks going to the cage distracting goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who came on in relief of Mason. It is essential that the Capitals continue to score this way as that is what is needed to win in the playoffs.

- Special teams, especially the Caps power play, were not good on Sunday. Green’s first period marker was with the man advantage but after that the Capitals failed to score on two additional power play situations. They gave up Bryan Little’s shorthanded tally, his second goal of the game, that tied this one at four after Erskine’s fight. They also yielded another shorthanded breakaway on that same power play but Atlanta shot the puck wide.  The big problem on the last two Washington power plays were the work of the point men, who showed terrible on ice awareness. Ovechkin was absolutely careless on the fourth goal and he tried to skate into two Thrashers. Green and John Carlson also struggled and did not do a good job of covering for the other point man. The Thrashers were one for two with the power play scoring on a five on three advantage.

- Michal Neuvirth stopped only 23 of 27 shots and he was the victim of a couple weird bounces and poor play by his defensemen. The second Atlanta goal came after Andrew Ladd blew by Carlson and when his partner, Karl Alzner came over to challenge, Andrew Ladd fired the puck on net from a bad angle short side. It was not clear if the puck hit Alzner’s stick but the bottom line on that play was #30 gave up his post too soon. One goal that was not his fault was the first Little tally that made it 4-3. Marcus Johansson, who skated well in the 3rd period, was outworked below the goal line by Anthony Stewart allowing Atlanta to center the puck. Jeff Schultz and Green then failed to cover the slot which provided Little the space he needed to bang the puck by #30. Overall there was a lot of sloppy d-zone coverage by Washington, but in the third period the Caps dominated and they out shot Atlanta, 13-7, with Neuvirth not allowing anything to get by him.

- In summary, the game was not pretty and a very busy November schedule is likely contributing to the sloppiness. The second period was downright awful for DC and Boudreau was clearly not happy with it.

“It wasn’t very good. We made mental mistakes. It was ugly, but the good thing is they righted the ship. We talked about not wanting to beat teams 6-4. We want to shut teams down,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winning coach on the second period and his team’s mentality.

“I think for the rest of the month and maybe even into early December, the schedule is pretty tough. There’s a lot of traveling, we play at home one night and then hit the road or we are the road and coming back home. In that time you don’t get a lot of practice and that can start to show a bit with us; we can get a bit loose out there. We just need to get a good practice in, tighten things up and get back to the way we were doing things earlier,” said Sloan on part of the cause for the uneven play.

Notes: The Hershey Bears knocked off the Binghamton Senators, 8-3, at the Giant Center and Mathieu Perreault had six assists in the victory (first AHL player to do so since 2005 – h/t John Walton). Goalie Semyon Varlamov, down on a rehab assignment, made his first start this year in the AHL and stopped 21 shots. Varly is expected to stay down in Chocolatetown for more work this week because he claims he is not 100% healthy yet (h/t @timleone)…Boudreau cancelled Monday’s practice so the Caps won’t be back on the ice until Tuesday…the face-off battle was a tie with each team winning 37 draws…Washington out shot Atlanta 33-27…Next up for the Capitals are the Sabres at the Verizon Center on Wednesday at 7pm.

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Semin Hat Trick Leads Caps in OT Win

Posted on 23 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

After losing two straight games to the Boston Bruins and struggling to score goals, everyone expected the Washington Capitals to break out against the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. After all, Atlanta had played Friday night at home (and got blown out by Tampa Bay) while the Caps sat plus the Thrashers were one of the worst teams in the NHL in penalty killing. But for the Caps these days, nothing is coming easy, but after trailing 2-1 going into the third period they rallied to take a 3-2 lead on an Alexander Semin hat trick, promptly gave up the tying goal with 32 seconds left to Evander Kane, before Tomas Fleischmann won it in overtime backhanding home an Eric Fehr blast that Thrashers goalie Chris Mason (40 saves) could not handle. It was a huge win for the boys in red, white, and blue and the battered Caps are now 5-3. They don’t play again until Wednesday and they need that rest with all of the injuries they have.

Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes, and analysis of the Capitals eighth straight home victory over Atlanta:

- The analysis can’t totally begin until we fully comprehend how banged up this Washington hockey club is right now. Defenseman Tom Poti is out day to day and therefore Mike Green, who is nursing an upper body injury, had to dress but he would only play on Caps power plays logging just 5:32 of ice time. Therefore, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau had to go with five defensemen throughout the rest of the contest. In net, Semyon Varlamov, who was 4-0 against the Thrashers in his career, re-injured his groin so Michal Neuvirth (29 saves) got the start and Dany Sabourin was recalled from Hershey. Up front things aren’t much better as Marcus Johansson sufferred a hip flexor in Boston and with Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon still hurt GM George McPhee recalled Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle from Hershey to play against the Thrashers. So a team that had lost two in a row and were finding it hard to light the lamp was going to have to dig deep to get a victory on Saturday, and they did outshooting Atlanta 44-32.

“It was good. I would have liked to have him more. I wasn’t nervous about him at all. We made the decision before the game that we would see how Mike is; if he is comfortable we will play him more, but the intent was to play him on the power play,” said Boudreau on the play and ice time given to Green on Saturday.

- After a good first couple of shifts by the Capitals, sparked by the Perreault-Semin-Brooks Laich line, the Thrashers dominated the first period and initial portion of the game. Atlanta outshot the Caps 13-4 in the opening stanza and scored first on the power play. John Erskine took a boarding penalty and when Neuvirth couldn’t handle Anthony Stewart’s shot from the right wing corner, something #30 struggled with a few times on Saturday, Andrew Ladd outworked Karl Alzner in front of the Washington net and put the biscuit in the basket. The Caps appeared to be in a fog for much of the first two periods giving up 27 of the 32 shots they allowed and if not for Neuvirth they might not have been able to come back.

“I don’t know [what happened]. I knew they [Atlanta] were going to come out and be very good. They played really well, skated really well; they didn’t give us much of a chance to breathe. But it is really difficult to keep that pace up and we got a little momentum off a power play and were able to move it forward,” explained Boudreau on the Caps slow start on Saturday night.

- Neuvirth, who is the team’s MVP the first eight games this season, really kept Washington in this one despite the problems he had with shots from the right wing boards. #30′s breakaway stop on Jim Slater with the Thrashers leading 2-1 in the second period was one of those saves that are game changers. After that huge save, and the stupid charging major and game misconduct that Dustin Byfuglien took on Neuvy trying to rattle the young goalie, the Capitals started to play with more intensity and resemble the squad that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. Of course, they still aren’t finishing plays well enough to hit that level yet, but most of the players were exhibiting the intensity and energy necessary to start getting there.

- Intensity and energy is exactly what Perreault (2 assists, 9-5 on face-offs, +3) brings to the lineup and is the primary reason I thought he had made the team out of training camp, only to be sent down, mostly because of the Capitals ability to do so without having him go through waivers. #85 was the right player to pair with Semin tonight because he isn’t afraid to go to the boards and corners to get the puck for #28. Semin, to his credit, was outstanding all evening and played strong on the puck. That line, which included Laich, is the other reason the Caps got victory #5. Laich still isn’t producing at the level #21 expects as his hands are failing him, but he is getting there and with Perreault up for an extended period that could help get him going as well.

“(Semin) is such a good player. He makes the job easier for me on the ice and hopefully we can get some more games like that. We bounced back in the second and third periods. We felt the emotion on the bench. Everyone wanted to really win tonight,” said Perreault on playing with #28 and the mood of his squad.

- As for the Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble line, well they are just not producing and look out of sync. Knuble appears a step slow right now, Backstrom seems to be battling the puck, and Ovie’s problem is he is not continuing to move his feet on his shifts. The Great #8 is in the right position to get scoring chances or make the big hit but when the opportunity presents itself he is coasting or gliding on his skates instead of continuing to churn his powerful legs. Case in point, he was incorrectly called for goalie interference late in the third period but that situation never happens if Ovie keeps skating when he corrals the puck in the offensive zone. In fact, had he turned on his jets he likely would have scored and ended the tilt right then.

- Special teams were once again a problem for DC on Saturday night. They allowed a power play goal and the second tally, Kane’s first of two goals, came 11 seconds after John Carlson exited the box (high sticking). On that goal there were five Caps around Kane yet he somehow was all alone in front of Neuvirth to bang home a pass from Rich Peverly from behind the cage. Both Erskine and Tyler Sloan incorrectly abandoned the front of the net and Carlson left Kane as well. It was shoddy defense and something that needs to be corrected. The power play moved the puck better with Green out on the ice but Ovechkin struggled at his point early on. The 2009-10 regular season number one unit went 0 for 3 and is now 4 for 33 this season (h/t @PckhdsThghts). Perhaps it is time to move Ovie down low and go with just defensemen on the points, preferably Carlson and Green, and put Poti, when healthy, in the mix on the second unit?

- There are alot of guys struggling to score on the club and the Caps had only two goals in their last 77 shots at one point tonight, both of which came as a result of goalie misplays (h/t @VogsCaps), but that game winning goal by Flash has to do wonders for his confidence and for Fehr as well. Those two guys are ones that Boudreau and McPhee expect to take their game to the next level this season but so far it has not happened. Flash just doesn’t seem to want to consistently pay the price in front of the net, on the boards, and in the corners and he was the lone weak link on face-offs on Saturday, going 2-6. Simply put, he needs to play bigger if he is going to stay in the NHL. As for Fehr, I just can’t put my finger on it, he should be doing better and one way for him to get going is to continue to use his powerful shot and get to the front of the cage more consistently.

Notes: The Caps handily won the face-off battle 41-23 with Dave Steckel going 13-3…Washington’s three game road trip starts Wednesday in Carolina and takes them to Minnesota on Thursday and then on Hockey Night in Canada at the Calgary Flames on Saturday…the next home game is Wednesday, November 3rd against the Toronto Maple Leafs…Down on the farm, Braden Holtby won his 3rd straight start stopping 17 shots in a Bears 5-1 victory over the Adirondack Phantoms. Hershey plays the Phantoms again on Sunday at 5pm at the Giant Center and tickets are available. There were three fights in the second period on Saturday night so the Sunday matinee should be an entertaining tilt.

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Caps Lethargic in Season Opening Loss

Posted on 08 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

The start of the Washington Capitals 2010-11 season began with a thud on Friday night as the Caps sleep-walked through a 4-2 loss in Atlanta to the Thrashers, a team they beat all six times last year. Michal Neuvirth, who stopped 27 shots, was about the only bright spot for Washington and it was his stellar play in net that kept this from being a blowout.

This game had a bizarre and scary opening sequence as Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec motioned with his left glove to the bench during a stoppage in play and then collapsed to the ice. Pavelec was carted off on a stretcher and a 20+ minute delay ensued and the latest news out of Hotlanta is the goalie regained consciousness and his vital signs are normal. He will be kept in the hospital overnight.

Here are the highlights (lowlights??!!) and analysis on an awful performance by the Caps:

- Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau should start the post game by checking the vital signs of his team because it was hard to find a pulse from pretty much anyone on his entire club. I cannot name one Washington Capitals skater who had a good game on Friday. Only Neuvirth in net was ready for this tilt against a team that had lost eight straight to the Caps.

- It was a lazy and practically brainless effort by the boys from DC. They routinely turned the puck over or missed assignments leading to Atlanta goals and scoring chances. The first Thrashers tally was off of a horrible giveaway by Tomas Fleischmann up the center of the ice, the second goal was the result of an Alexander Ovechkin giveaway on the left wing boards, the third was on a penalty shot by Evander Kane (2 goals) on a questionable call but that was set up by an Alexander Semin soft play in the defensive zone, and the fourth and final lamp lighter for Atlanta ping ponged by Neuvirth off of the leg of Karl Alzner. However, that doesn’t happen if Matt Hendricks stays with his man off of the defensive zone faceoff.

- Ovechkin had a nice assist on Mike Knuble’s goal in the 3rd period that cut the Thrashers lead to 3-2 and gave Washington some hope but overall he was just terrible in game one of 2010-11. He did not appear to be skating hard and lacked energy. When your team captain is doing that it is difficult to criticize the other guys on the ice for doing the same.

- Atlanta is clearly a better team than in 2009-10 and they have some new players and a new coach in Craig Ramsey. But let’s be serious, if the Caps put out a better effort and played smarter hockey there is no way the Thrashers can hang with them. The bottom line is Washington took a page out of a Dr. Seuss book on Friday night and the performance could be summed up with three words: Stink, Stank, Stunk.

Fortunately for the Caps they can get right back on the ice on Saturday night and turn things around quickly as they take on the New Jersey Devils at 7pm at the Verizon Center.

Notes: Brooks Laich had the first tally of the game for Washington on Chris Mason on a pretty passing play right after Pavelec left the ice…20 year old Marcus Johansson was 1-7 in faceoffs. He skated well but was easily pushed off the puck below the circles at both ends…Washington was 0 for 3 on the power play and it looked as bad as it performed in the playoffs last April.

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Caps Lose in Shootout to Blues, 4-3

Posted on 14 February 2010 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals will head to the Olympic Break with a three game losing streak after falling to the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, in the shootout on Saturday night. All three losses have come on the road this week and two were after regulation time had ended. The good news is the Capitals have a 13 point lead in the Eastern Conference with 20 games remaining. The Caps overall record is now 41-13-8 (90 points) and they have a one point margin over the San Jose Sharks in the race for the President’s Trophy. Washington is next in action on Wednesday, March 3rd at Buffalo.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis:

On the Caps recent 14 game winning streak they were relatively healthy but now the injuries are adding up. Tom Poti (groin), Jason Chimera (groin), and John Erskine (upper body) were not available for this contest and things got worse when Blues stiff, Cam Janssen, elbowed Matt Bradley to the head along the boards at least a second after the puck was gone early in the first period. It was an absolute cheap shot and Janssen, who has yet to register a point this season, should get a big suspension. “The Professor” apparently is woozy but not seriously hurt so it looks like the Caps just lost him for the last 54 minutes in St. Louis. Guys like Janssen really don’t belong in the NHL but some GM’s and coaches still sign and play those type of guys. In addition, the officials, who were wildly inconsistent all evening, called Quintin Laing for an instigator and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when it appeared that he dropped his gloves almost at the same time as Janssen. The unsportsmanlike conduct call was a result of Laing wearing a visor (another rule that doesn’t really work well). Don Van Massenhoven likes to be visible and his partner Ian Walsh was just as bad in this contest. The quality of officiating and some of the ridiculous rules are the biggest problems in the NHL now.

“The rule has got to change. You’ve got to watch the game and know the game and make the right call. I don’t even think it was an instigator, quite frankly. In my opinion he turned around and the guy is ready to fight and you have to know that we’re their standing up for our guy but at the same time that was a pretty dirty hit. [The hit] was the instigation but the rules aren’t there yet so you can’t make them up, but it was a bad hit,” said Caps Coach Boudreau on the play that cost him Bradley for the game plus Laing for 19 minutes.

This game featured some outstanding goaltending from both Jose Theodore (33 saves) and Chris Mason (31 saves). Theodore thwarted at least three clean breakaways and Mason made a super stop on Mike Knuble (2 goals) in the third period and several great saves in overtime.  It is easy to see why Team Canada has made Mason as their alternate goalie for the Olympic games in Vancouver. As for Theo and the Caps, they lost when David Perron scored the only shootout goal, in the fourth round, after he hit the post and then the puck banked into the net off of Jose, similiar to how #60 lost a shootout in New York last season. The Caps had a tough week as far as getting bounces and Saturday was no exception. The third Blues goal was going to be an easy clear but the puck somehow caromed away from Shaone Morrisonn before he could dump it out of the zone and a couple of passes later an Erik Johnson shot deflected off of Laing and by Theodore. #60 continues to play well and if he keeps up this level of performance he could very well be the guy who opens the playoffs for Washington in goal.

“I thought we had some chances but their goalie was really good tonight, he had to make some tough saves in overtime. The save he made on Ovie off the face-off, I don’t think he saw it, but when goalies are in the zone they make those saves and Jose was great, I thought Jose was great tonight,”" said Boudreau on the goaltending.

After giving up six goals in each of the last two contests, the Caps did a better job in their own end, although in addition to the three breakaways there were several other two on one rushes for St. Louis. USA World Junior hero, John Carlson, was called up from Hershey with Erskine ailing and Boudreau went with defensive pairs of Mike Green-Jeff Schultz, Brian Pothier-Karl Alzner, and Carlson-Morrisonn. Tyler Sloan was scratched. Carlson got burned by Paul Kariya at neutral ice and it led to an odd man rush goal by T.J. Oshie. The first Blues goal came in close by Patrick Berglund. Alzner was whistled for two minors while #74 received one. It appeared the zebras were picking on the younger guys because some of those calls, especially the last one on King Karl, were pathetic. Did I say the officiating was awful again?

“Yeah, I thought the power play goal there wasn’t much you could do. I thought Carly [Carlson] had played a really good game but he got caught on the 2 on 1 and Schultzie on the first one might have had the back door but he didn’t block out, but other than that I thought we played pretty good, they got a lot of shots on the power play,” commented Boudreau when asked if his team’s defensive play was better than the previous few contests.

Offensively, Knuble notched two power play goals (Caps went 2 for 6) from in front of the cage sandwiched around Alexander Semin’s wicked top shelf wrister. Semin added an assist and had a super game. Alexander Ovechkin was held without a point for the first time in 10 games (January 26 versus the Islanders) in just over 25 minutes of ice time. Green added two assists and now has 14 goals and 46 assists in 57 games to lead the NHL in scoring by defenseman. With Chimeara out and Chris Bourque sent back to Hershey, Boudreau switched up his second and third lines, putting Tomas Fleischamnn on the left wing, but after Bradley was injured and Laing given all of those PIMs the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winner had to go most of the way with just 10 forwards.

Notes: The Caps won the face-off battle 43-28 and Dave Steckel was his usual dominant self going 7-2. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post reported today that he heard Caps GM George McPhee is interested in another defenseman and a forward, likely a center (no surprise there). No trades can be made until March 1 due to the Olympic roster freeze and the final deadline is March 3rd at 3pm. Semin, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Brendan Morrison, in that order, were all stopped by Mason in the shootout.

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