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Caps Hard Work Leads to Surprising Win Over Defending Champs

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Caps Hard Work Leads to Surprising Win Over Defending Champs

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Ed Frankovic

When prognosticating Tuesday night’s Boston-Washington hockey game on paper beforehand, this looked like an easy win for the Bruins. The B’s have been one of the hottest teams in the league the last two plus months while the Capitals have been struggling to score goals. With Alexander Ovechkin out due to suspension and Nicklas Backstrom missing his 10th game because of a concussion, surely the highest scoring team in the NHL would have an easy night against the Caps, right?

Well to quote the Sundance Kid, “You figured wrong, Butch!”

The Caps came to play on Tuesday night and displayed as much effort and energy as they have all season. They battled a much bigger Boston club and in the end, the Bruins were done in by Washington’s little guys. Mathieu Perreault played the “Little Engine That Could” on this night notching his first career hat trick, including the game winner in the third period, and Cody Eakin chipped in a goal that Tuukka Rask should’ve had as the Capitals were victorious, 5-3, to improve their record to 26-19-3 and reclaim first place in the Southeast Division as a result of Florida’s 3-2 loss to the Flyers in the shootout.

There was a lot to like about this game despite the fact that the Bruins outshot the Caps, 32-23, and attempted 73 shots to just 50 for Washington. Despite the attempt imbalance, the Capitals had lots of scoring chances primarily because they seemed to develop a consistent offense to defense flow for the first time in awhile since Backstrom’s injury. The passing, after a shaky first several minutes, was much crisper and the Caps were coming through the neutral zone with some speed. The Capitals still have issues up the middle of the ice, but for the last two tilts, Perreault has really stepped up and filled a gaping hole in the pivot position by using his excellent offensive skill. You will still get the occassional MP85 defensive zone poor coverage or penalty (his trip in the second period led to the Bruins third goal on the power play) but at this point coach Dale Hunter needs to continue to take that risk because you can’t win without scoring goals. Plus, Perreault seems to have some nice chemistry with Alexander Semin (1 assist) and we saw glimpses of that in the first half of last season (before Perreault broke his nose in Carolina).

On the backend, the Caps still have some cleaning up to do. The first Bruins goal may be considered lucky to some since it went in off of Karl Alzner’s own stick but there were four big mistakes in Washington’s end before King Karl put a wicked backhander past Tomas Vokoun (29 saves). First, Dennis Wideman throws the puck up the right wing boards without checking on the position of his winger (Semin). Second, #28 gets beat to the puck by Bruins d-man Dennis Seidenberg, third, Wideman then loses Rich Peverley coming off of the boards giving Boston a two on one down low, and finally, Alzner goes to the ice to try and cut off the pass but he does it too quickly and that allows Peverley to slide the puck behind #27, who in a last ditch effort to breakup the centering feed, swings his stick around and puts the biscuit in his own net. I am a big proponent of defenders NOT leaving their feet in their own zone because, like in basketball, you give the offensive player a huge advantage. Alzner should’ve stayed on his skates there.

In addition, the Bruins second goal came on a terrible cross ice attempt by John Carlson. Sophomore Tyler Seguin picked that one off and went in easily to beat Vokoun upstairs. Carlson has been making far too many giveaways lately and needs to be more responsible on his breakouts.

Vokoun once again turned in a solid performance in goal. He is in a groove right now and that is primarily coming from the fact that the Capitals, under Hunter, have drastically cut down the number of odd man rushes they allow. In addition, #29 is in better position to stop the puck because he has a very good idea where the opposing shots are coming from. Both of those things correlate directly to a higher save percentage.

At the end of the night, Hunter’s squad overcame their defensive zone mistakes because they played with energy, effort, and passion. The Bruins are a bigger team but Washington actually out hit them, 30-16. It was a victory that many could not see coming but one thing about this Caps club is they very often seem to be able to elevate their game against the league’s elite. Perhaps Boston was a bit distracted by their Conn Smythe winning goalie, Tim Thomas, and his decision to bail on the President and the White House yesterday? Maybe. But once the puck is dropped those type of things kind of disappear, so credit Washington for a hard working win that gives them the ability to take the week off sitting in first place in their division.

Notes: Ovechkin announced today that he will indeed skip the All Star Game this weekend in Ottawa due to his suspension…Marcus Johansson returned to the lineup after his illness but only played 12:28. He did have an assist and was +2 playing left wing with Perreault and Semin…Jeff Halpern was 11-4 on faceoffs, including a big win with 30 seconds left that directly led to Wideman’s lengthy empty net goal that made it 5-3…John Erskine, Joel Ward, and Jay Beagle all played under 10 minutes. Ward needs to show that he is worth the $3M a season General Manager George McPhee shelled out for him over these last 34 games and then the playoffs. Right now he is not skating well and as a result won’t see the ice much in Hunter’s system that relies heavily on speed and skating ability…the Caps return to practice next Monday at 2pm before departing for the Sunshine State. They play in Tampa on Tuesday and then face the Panthers on Wednesday night…speaking of Florida, congratulations to former Caps radio play by play man Steve Kolbe for landing a new gig with the Jacksonville Suns calling AA baseball. I spoke with the Baltimore native and Mount St. Joes grad last Thursday night and he was excited to be back in broadcasting after his 14 year run ended with the Caps this past offseason.

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Ovechkin Suspended 3 Games, May Skip NHL All Star Game

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Ovechkin Suspended 3 Games, May Skip NHL All Star Game

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Ed Frankovic

The National Hockey League suspended Alexander Ovechkin three games today for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Zbynek Michalek in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss. Michalek also had a hearing on Monday for his hit on Matt Hendricks but he escaped any suspension or fines. Michalek’s hit was penalized during the game while Ovechkin’s was not.

The NHL has been cracking down on hits to the head and former player Brendan Shanahan is in charge of handing out the rulings. Shanahan pointed out that the Gr8 left his feet and hit the opponents head despite initial contact with the shoulder. In addition, Ovechkin’s past suspensions played a significant role in the judgement.

This suspension comes at a terrible time for the Capitals, who are already missing Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green due to injury. It also isn’t good for the league because Ovechkin likely won’t go this upcoming weekend to Ottawa for the All Star Game as a suspended player. The Gr8 is allowed to play in that exhibition game but must miss Tuesday’s contest against Boston and then next week’s tilts at Tampa Bay and Florida. Given how much flack Ovechkin gets from the Canadian media, it really makes no sense for him to go the meaningless game. The Gr8 will constantly be bombarded by reporters about the hit and likely villified in the Canadian press, as he routinely gets treated now. The only losers in all of this are the many fans who still love Ovechkin.

So basically if Ovechkin goes to the all star game he’ll get slammed for the hit more and if he doesn’t go, he’ll get ripped for bailing on the young fans. The guy can’t win. If I was him, I’d skip the whole weekend, go to the Carribean, and recharge my battery for a run at the playoffs and beyond.

Notes: The Caps sent defensemen Tomas Kundratek back to Hershey today meaning either John Erskine or Jeff Schultz will play against the Bruins..Speaking of the Bruins, goalie Tim Thomas chose not to attend today’s team ceremony at the White House and posted his rationale on facebook citing the growth of Government by both parties, among other items. It is a free country and people can do what they want, but if you ask me this was a selfish move that will draw unnecessary attention to him and his team and adds another distraction to the Bruins quest to defend Lord Stanley. I think it was a terrible decision by Thomas because whether you agree or not with the policies of the Commander in Chief, you have to respect the position. Therefore, he should’ve gone and kept his mouth shut, but apparently he was thinking only of himself.

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Caps Finalize Roster

Posted on 04 October 2011 by Ed Frankovic

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

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

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

Goalies: Tomas Vokoun and Michael Neuvirth

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

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

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

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

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

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Caps Media Fantasy Camp plus Other Odds and Ends

Posted on 08 September 2011 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals held Media Fantasy Camp down at Kettler IcePlex on Wednesday and the event started with Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach/video Blaine Forsythe providing the media with a tour and demonstration of the video room. The room is quite nice with very comfortable seats positioned in front of a 100 inch plus screen. Boudreau started the presentation by showing us a clip of the “old way” the Capitals used to play in their own zone. In that method, the strong side wing (the one on the side where the puck currently resides) was positioned high in his own zone on the near side defensemen. Boudreau noted that this tactic often resulted in quick transition for his club, which the highly skilled team took advantage of in previous seasons. However, due to the drop in goal scoring early on in 2010-11, the bench boss opted to change that strategy to one that is more closely used by the other 29 teams in the league where the winger is positioned down lower in his own zone. That tranformation, which was often painful to watch last December, was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7. But at the end of the season, the strategic move paid off as the Caps ended up 4th in the NHL in goals against average at 2.33 per game behind Vancouver, Boston, and Nashville. Note that two of those three were in the Stanley Cup Finals while the Predators gave the Canucks all they could handle in round two. From my vantage point, Boudreau absolutely did the right thing changing things up in his own zone last season, but more on that a little later on.

An interesting part of the video session was a one on one chat I had afterwards with Forsythe about the software technology involved in breaking down game tape. Today’s products make it very easy to get that done as soon as a period is over and the assistant coach stated that he is able to show the coaches and/or players whatever they want to see after each stanza. Back when I was doing statistics for the Capitals in the early 1990′s, then video coordinator Tod Button often did that task after the game, but while the game was going on he had software that allowed him to mark portions of the tape as even strength, power play, penalty kill, face-off, etc so that he could break it down quickly for then coach Terry Murray. Button would also use that software to break down game film of other teams, which he recorded via Satellite at Piney Orchard and sometimes at the old Capital Centre. Forsythe told me that he still relies on the Centre Ice Package to record the games of future Capitals opponents. As expected, Forsythe’s software, 20 years later, is leaps and bounds better than what Button had to work with. The video coach also stated that certain buildings provide much better angles than others, with Madison Square Garden being one of the best (so I guess Rangers fans do have something to chant about next year, eh?!). Video coordinators prefer that they get all of the game footage from faceoff to final buzzer so Forsythe’s biggest issue is one that Button didn’t like dealing with either in the 1990′s: the play starting in the corner! It seems even technology can’t replace a tv producer who prefers showing other footage while the puck is being dropped.

Once the video session was over, the media was treated to a practice and instruction session that was run by assistant coaches Bob Woods, Dean Evason, and Forsythe. It was truly a fun day out at Kettler.

Now back to the Caps and their defensive zone play. On a very recent trip to the Great White North, I spoke with an NHL scout who was adamant that the way to win the Stanley Cup was via solid team defense and goaltending. He opined that a team must have a goalie that can flat out win a game for a team when needed in the post season, as Tim Thomas did for the Bruins on several occassions this past spring. The list of those type of netminders includes mulitple Stanley Cup winners Ken Dryden, Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. Having witnessed every Capitals season since their inception and many painful post seasons, it is hard to disagree with the scout. Washington’s biggest problem in the post season over the years has primarily been goaltending. In 1998 the Caps received the best netminding they’ve ever had as Olie Kolzig basically carried Washington into the Stanley Cup Finals. Looking back on very recent history, the best example of a Capitals goalie stealing a game or two was Semyon Varlamov’s play in the opening two contests of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins series. If you go back and look at the quotes from the Pens you will see that many of them talked about how good Varly was playing. That was one of the reasons I was hoping that Varlamov would remain a Capital but his agent sealed that fate with some crazy negotiating and now that ship has sailed. So the question now becomes is Tomas Vokoun the guy that can take the Capitals to unchartered waters in the post season? That’s not to say that Michal Neuvirth can’t be that guy, after all he’s won two AHL titles, but #30 was unable to steal a game for Washington against Tampa this past spring when the Caps needed that desperately to change the momentum in a tight series. Clearly we can’t hang the series sweep primarily on Neuvirth, team defense was horrendous at times and all you have to do is go back and watch the Jeff Schultz giveaway in game one that led to Steve Downie’s tying goal or Eric Fehr’s disastrous clearing attempt in game three with the Caps up 3-2 in period three.

Here are some other Caps Odds and Ends:

- It was revealed by The Washington Post that John Erskine underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and he may not be ready for the regular season meaning the top six healthy defensemen are Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, and Schultz.

- In that Varlamov trade, the Caps received Colorado’s first round selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft (they also received a 2nd round pick). When speaking with an NHL scout who is focused on the amateur side of the business, he mentioned that next year’s draft class was very good. He also felt that Colorado could very well struggle in 2011-12. So GM George McPhee and company could end up with a top five pick in a strong draft year!

- Capitals rookie camp opens on Sunday, September 11th at Kettler IcePlex with a rookie game in Philadelphia against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, September 15th at 5 pm. The veterans will officially hit the ice on Saturday, September 17th at Kettler IcePlex.

- Single game Capitals regular season tickets are now available via washingtoncaps.com

- Tickets are still available for the Capitals pre-season opener in Baltimore at the First Mariner Arena on September 20th against Nashville. Go to washingtoncaps.com for purchasing info.

- Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in and connected with the tragic plane crash in Russia on Wednesday. God Bless.

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Caps Reclaim 1st In Southeast Division

Posted on 06 March 2011 by Ed Frankovic

Alexander Semin’s line didn’t have a single shot on goal the entire game in regulation,  but all it took was one in overtime. Semin worked a nice give and go with Marcus Johansson early in the overtime period and #28′s laser through the five hole on Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory just 48 seconds into the extra frame. Goalie Michal Neuvirth (32 saves) was outstanding, including making a huge glove save on Marty Reasoner in the dying seconds, and he has put the Caps back into first place in the Southeast Division for the first time since January. Washington is now 36-20-10 (82 points) heading into Monday night’s 7:00pm 1st place battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning (81 points) on VERSUS.

Here are the quotes, highlights, and analysis from another one goal victory by Washington (Caps are now 19-7-10 in 1 goal games):

- Semin was once again playing with Jason Arnott and Brooks Laich and the chemistry those guys had in the first two games together just wasn’t there on this night. Perhaps it was simply the matchups, but a unit that created numerous quality scoring chances and had the game winner on Thursday night against the Blues just could not get untracked against a young, scrappy Florida club. But Semin delivered when he had to and his goal came with MJ90 and not any of his regular mates. That’s two game winning goals plus an assist on Arnott’s GWG on Thursday in the last four games for Semin, not too shabby!

- Neuvirth continues to make the case that he should be the Capitals #1 goalie come playoff time and his season record is now 22-10-4. He didn’t have a chance on either goal against since one was on a two on one break and the second was on a Panthers 5 on 3 power play from right in front. He continues to get better with his positioning and his rebound control.

- Johansson was my “Hard Hat” player of the night. The young Swede was all over the ice using his speed and he hustles. He is still learning where and when to pass and how to position himself, but he had it down pat on the game winner getting the puck in a perfect place for Semin to slam the biscuit home for Washington. MJ90 blocked a shot while shorthanded in period one by sprawling out on the ice and he had to go to the locker room favoring his right leg. It looked like a potential break or fracture but the smallish kid showed he is a battler and came back to play a strong final 40+ minutes. Without him the Caps don’t win. Way to go Rook!

- Boyd Gordon also had a superb outing and he was chosen as the official Capitals “Hard Hat” player of the game (h/t Mike Vogel, aka @VogsCaps). He threw his body around to block shots while the team was shorthanded and his work on the second Caps goal, which he scored, was yeoman-like. Gordon was only 8-9 on draws though.

- It looks like Nicklas Backstrom’s injured thumb is feeling a lot better because his tally, Washington’s first goal, was a super shot top shelf off of an even better feed from Alexander Ovechkin (1 assist) after the Great #8 outworked the Florida D behind the Caps net. It was Backstrom’s 17th marker of the season to tie the game up at one just over two minutes after the Panthers drew first blood. Given that he was 11-6 on face-offs, you can probably bank on the fact that he has put the dirty Kris Letang slash behind him physically.

 - The Caps didn’t play a very good first period, getting out shot 16-6, but they came on strong in period two and grabbed a one goal lead. In the third period they implemented the defensive system they have been working so hard on and it nearly worked. The Panthers didn’t have a quality scoring chance until they received a five on three power play late in the contest. Boudreau, for the most part, rolled his lines but the Gordon-Matt Hendricks-Matt Bradley unit seemed to get more ice than usual in that frame since they are really good at getting the puck to center and then throwing it deep in the opponent’s zone. It is a playoff type strategy that has been working well for Washington.

“Until we got two minors, I don’t think they’d had too many chances in the third period and we were understanding what we had to do and I thought we played a pretty solid period. We weren’t really trying to score,” commented Boudreau following the victory.

Overall, I like the defensive posture rather than playing barnyard hockey, like this team did a lot of last year, but there is one problem in letting off the gas totally on offense: you sometimes put the fate of the game into the hands of the referees, and that is not a good thing.

- As for the two clowns in striped shirts tonight, Ian Walsh and T0m Kowal, they were horrible and they played a part in both Florida tallies. On the first Panthers goal, Dennis Wideman has his shot blocked at the right point by Mike Santorelli. It was a clean block but #13 followed through and took Wideman out and instead of what should have been an automatic interference call, Michal Repik and Bill Thomas get a two on one break on John Erskine, which they bury. Erskine and the Caps would be victimized again by bad officiating as #4 was called for tripping when he went to the ice to block the passing lane and slid into the rear boards with just under four minutes remaining. Erskine never touches Keaton Ellerby, who jumps in the air and avoids the Caps defenseman but falls to the ice. The zebras incorrectly rule tripping and Florida gets a cheap power play. Then Wideman gets correctly called for slashing setting up the two man advantage that the Cats use to tie the game up at 17:24 and send the tilt to OT. What is more amazing is that Florida had six power plays to just one for Washington on Sunday after the Caps only had one power play against St. Louis on Thursday night. The imbalance is maddening and the Capitals bench boss was not thrilled about it afterwards.

“I’m glad we just answered, seven penalties to one, quite a discrepancy,” started Boudreau in his post game presser talking about winning the game despite the penalty imbalance, “Everybody complains about our power play and rightfully so, it’s not doing that well, but it’s really hard to get a consistency or momentum on it when you are getting one power play a game. I know we deserved some of those penalties but they deserve some that they didn’t get either and I don’t understand the discrepancies, it happens way too often,” finished the Caps coach on the disturbing trend.

I said this after Thursday’s contest and I’ll say it again, you want to really tell me that the Panthers only committed one stinking penalty all night??!! No way, and it is frustrating, especially when you see Ovechkin get dumped right off of the face-off down the stretch directly in front of the referee. The officiating continues to make no sense, and anyone who watched the Flyers-Rangers first period on Sunday knows what I am talking about. I have no idea why Brian Boyle was given an instigator in his fight with Jody Shelley today but I guess that is what you have to expect with the NHL zebras these days??!!

Notes:  The Caps lost the faceoff battle, 33-32…John Carlson (23:49) and Karl Alzner (23:03) led the Caps in ice time. Wideman (22:37) and Scott Hannan (21:54) were the next pair with the most playing time…Boudreau only played Ovechkin 16:53 and Backstrom 17:51 so it looks like he was saving his big guns for the big matchup with the Bolts on Monday. The lack of power play time diminshed their totals as well (thanks blind zebras!)…The Great #8 had four points in the last meeting between the two Southeast Division leading clubs in Tampa in early February…Tyler Sloan played 12:42 in place of a scratched Jeff Schultz. No word on if #55 is nicked up or if Boudreau didn’t like the matchup for Sarge against a faster Florida team in the first half of back to back tilts…the Caps only had 25 shots on net…special thanks to Comcast for running Boudreau’s post game presser which allowed me to re-publish his quotes.

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Bad Opening Period Costs Caps 8th Straight Loss

Posted on 19 December 2010 by Ed Frankovic

The Washington Capitals came within one of setting a club record for shots on goal in a period (26) on Saturday night in Boston, and still lost. Thanks to a terrible opening first stanza in Beantown, one in which the Bruins scored three goals on 11 shots, a furious Caps rally came up one goal short and the result was Washington’s eighth straight defeat. Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, and Blake Wheeler all tallied for Boston while Matt Bradley and Karl Alzner lit the lamp for DC in a tough 3-2 defeat. The Caps now drop to 18-12-4 and have given up the Southeast Division lead to the Atlanta Thrashers, who thrashed the New Jersey Devils, 7-1, this evening. Atlanta now has 41 points and Washington is one back, but they are also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who also have a game in hand on both teams. So technically, the Caps are in third place in the Southeast Division and reside in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.

Here are the highlights and analysis from another close Capitals loss:

- I don’t know what was said by either the coaches or the players before the Caps came out for period one, but whatever it was it should never be used again. Washington played scared and tight in that opening stanza and just about every Capital was making mistakes, primarily because they were trying too hard and over thinking. Time after time there were one or two Capitals in position to make a play and they couldn’t come up with it. It was simply bad hockey and it cost Washington the game. I will label that opening 20 minutes the “Diamond Period” because to borrow a phrase from Ferris Bueller, the way the Caps played in that frame, had you stuck a lump of coal up the rear of each Capital, by week’s end that is what you’d have from each of them, a diamond! You simply cannot win playing hockey if you are afraid to make mistakes!

- Okay, now that the rant is over, this entire game turned after Michal Neuvirth (18 saves on 21 shots) stopped Tyler Seguin on a breakaway when it was 3-0 early in the second period. If #19 scores it is game over but the Caps went down the other end and it was the line of Dave Steckel, Matt Hendricks, and Bradley that put Washington on the board and back in the game. All three players in the offensive zone did their jobs and #10 found a nice seam in the right wing circle and put one inside the far post by Tim Thomas (39 saves) at 2:18 of period two.

- In the third period the ice was totally tilted with the Capitals rushing the puck into the Bruins zone over and over, but Thomas stood strong. Alzner finally got one by the current front runner for “NHL Comeback Player of the Year” when his blast hit a Boston d-man in front while he was jockeying with Nicklas Backstrom. That tally came with 5:28 remaining and Washington kept pouring it on, but when #30 stopped Alexander Ovechkin on a backhander with 10 seconds left the storybook comeback was thwarted and the losing streak continues on.

- The most baffling thing to me right now is why Ovechkin can’t score a big goal when the Caps need one??!! I thought for sure the Great #8 would tally with the Capitals throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Thomas, but despite seven shots on net and six hits, he could only muster a single assist on Alzner’s goal.

- I think it is no coincidence that since Jeff Schultz fractured his right thumb in the second period of the Maple Leafs game (third loss of this current streak) the play of the team has declined. Mike Green has been paired with just about everyone on the Caps roster and he has struggled (he’s also missed two games with a sprained MCL). #52 was on the ice for all three Bruins tallies, the first while paired with John Erskine and the last two with Scott Hannan, who has been absolutely awful since coming over in the trade for Tomas Fleischmann from Colorado. #23 is now -9 in his eight games with the Caps but to be fair to him, injuries to #55 and some of the others have put him in a difficult role while learning a new system. Green was -2 and misplayed the two on two that resulted in Bergeron’s early goal, but Neuvirth needed to make that save as well. On the third Bruins goal, the two time Norris Trophy finalist was outworked behind the Caps net but had Backstrom stuck with Wheeler in the slot that goal does not happen.

- So on to Ottawa the Caps go on Sunday night for the second half of back to back tilts (faceoff is at 730 pm). The question now is what Capitals team shows up? Is it the one that played the last 40 minutes tonight or is it the one that got bombed in New York last Sunday night? If it is the latter, I would have to think that some changes will be seriously considered, if not made.

Notes: Bradley fought tough guy Adam McQuaid at the 8:17 mark of the opening period, right after Boston had made it 2-0…the Caps were without injured forwards Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon while Mathieu Perreault was a late scratch due to the flu…Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau juggled his lines in period three and Andrew Gordon saw one shift with Backstrom and Ovechkin before Eric Fehr, who was supposed to be the healthy scratch, was put up there. #16 did a decent job on that unit…the Caps won the faceoff battle, 31-25, with #19 going 14-8 while Marcus Johansson lost six of seven draws.

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Caps Continue to Improve, Beat Bruins 5-3

Posted on 05 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic

After losing two games earlier in the season to the Boston Bruins in back to back tilts, the Washington Capitals played like they had something to prove against the B’s on Friday night at the Verizon Center. Washington jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods, gave away the lead, then scored twice in the final ten minutes en route to a 5-3 victory before a sold out crowd. The Caps third straight win, and fifth in their last six games, improves their record to 9-4, good for first place in the Southeast Division and first overall in the Eastern Conference.

Let’s get right to the highlights, quotes, and analysis of a contest that saw the Caps outshoot the Bruins, 39-18:

- There were a lot of positives on Friday in this tilt but to me the biggest thing about this club right now is it is continuing to improve and the second period they played was easily their best of the season. Washington outshot the Bruins 17-6 and notched three tallies in the middle stanza, including a dandy shorthanded goal by Alexander Semin that was made possible by defenseman Mike Green (1 goal, 1 assist) jumping up into the play and then making an all-world pass back to #28, who fired the puck five hole on Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (7-0 coming into this game). The glass “half-empty” crew will likely be out in full force for Washington losing a three goal third period lead but Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau was having none of that after this victory.

“I feel great about the way we played the first two periods, we played tremendous. So I am not going to try to spin any negatives on this one. That is a great team that we kept down with 11 or 12 shots in two periods. They came out really hard in the third and got two power play goals and we had a couple of breakdowns. Then we righted the ship and I don’t think they had more than one chance after that. I don’t want to get negative here,” stated Boudreau when asked if he was disappointed in giving up three goals again in the third period.

- Thomas and Michal Neuvirth (11 saves on 14 shots), two of the top goalies in the NHL this season, started the game and both were yanked from the cage in this one. The Bruins net minder was replaced by Tuukka Rask (stopped 12 of 13 shots) for the third period, likely in an attempt by Boston coach Claude Julien to try and change the momentum, while Neuvirth, who had very little work since the opening 10 minutes, gave up three tallies in a six minute stretch. At that point, Boudreau had a huge decision to make with Braden Holtby, who had previously never played in an NHL game, sitting on the bench. But the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winning coach made another great tactical decision based on something that only coaches typically notice and that led him to the switch.

“With us, I thought Neuvy didn’t look very good on goals two and three and he was looking over [at the bench]. Any time a goalie is looking [at the bench], I thought okay [let's make the switch]. It wasn’t I didn’t know if it was fair to Braden, his first game, to put him in with 10 minutes to go against Boston in a tie game, but I thought he did outstanding,” said Boudreau on another tactical decision that led to a Caps victory.

Neuvirth, who Boudreau said appeared to be tired on Wednesday against the Leafs, could be wearing down from playing in 12 of the 13 games so far this season, but who knows if that is really the case?

“You’d have to ask him [on the goals allowed]. He might be tired. In the American League it is two of three games but then you get four days off and here it is every other day you have to play,” surmised Boudreau on the schedule adjustments his young goalie is having to make in the NHL.

- Green is clearly the straw that stirs the drink for the Caps with his rushes from the back end. He notched his third goal in three games by faking Bruins forward Gregory Campbell out of his jock and to the ice on Washington’s second tally and the aforementioned setup he made on the Semin shorthanded marker is a sequence that only highly talented defensemen like a Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey are able to make. #52 logged 25:43 of ice time and was the game’s number one star for his play at both ends of the rink.

“Best offensive defenseman in the NHL, which means he’s the best one in the world. So when you don’t have him it is a detriment. He blocks shots, he blocked about five shots in the third period alone and he played a lot of hockey, he was a real plus for us,” said Boudreau on the blue liner who was +2 on Friday night.

- As former Capital Alan May blogged on Monday, the Caps jettisoned some of the older players from last season’s roster and brought up young players like John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Neuvirth. May pointed out that it will take time for those players to adjust to the rigors of the NHL but he also noted that the team continues to win and it will likely pay off in the long run (i.e, April). Carlson had the game winner with 6:35 to go on a point blast off of a face-off win by Boyd Gordon that included great hustle and a nice pass by Eric Fehr, as well. #74 and his partner, Alzner, just continue to get better and better each game with tonight’s contest being their strongest yet.

“Alzner and Carlson were very good. Our defense was very good, in general. Tyler’s [Sloan] best game too. Alzner and Carlson played really good against the Leafs and then were good in Calgary and they are just getting better,” added Boudreau on his young defensive pair that won back to back Calder Cups in Hershey.

- As said above, the Caps continue to improve and their effort is getting stronger. They continued to go to the net hard and are following Boudreau’s system much more closely after some shaky tilts early on. Overall the head coach was very pleased because this win came against a squad that was 7-2 on the season prior to tonight.

“One of the things we talked about in the firts two games was Boston is a real strong team that wins a lot of one on one battles so we were real cognizant of trying to compete and battle with them. It’s a great video clip because when you win battles you have success and we’ll be showing that one, for sure,” finished Boudreau on the victory over the Bruins.

Notes: Alexander Oveckin had an empty net goal and an assist but, according to the stat sheet, he did not register a single hit…like the game winner, the Caps first goal by Sloan came off of a face-off win (Tomas Fleischmann) and Mike Knuble did a great job screening Thomas…both Knuble and Fehr had strong games and appear to be on the verge of breaking through with some goals…Boston won the face-off battle, 42-35…Jeff Schultz made a very headsy play on the empty net clincher. Instead of trying to fire through a maze of players and risking a blocked attempt, #55 dumped the puck deep along the left wing boards where Nicklas Backstrom (two assists) corralled it and fed the Great #8 for an easy tap in…the Caps are undefeated with Gordon (1 assist, +1) in the lineup (7-0). Next up for the Caps are the despised Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at 5pm, so after the Ravens hopefully defeat the Miami Dolphins, fans can rush home and watch the Caps knock off those “scumbags” (as WNST Morning Show host, Drew Forrester, calls them) on the ice.

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Caps Overtake Leafs in Shootout, 5-4

Posted on 04 November 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Despite blowing a two goal third period lead, the Washington Capitals rallied to tie the game via an Alexander Semin power play goal with 5:38 remaining and then went on to knock off the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout at sold out Verizon Center on Wednesday night. The Caps received a goal and an assist from Semin and two helpers from Alexander Ovechkin while getting 24 stops from rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth in the victory. With the win, Washington moves to 8-4 overall and are now tied for first in the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference with the Tampa Bay Lightning (the Bolts have a game in hand).

Below are the highlights, quotes, and analysis of an entertaining game that was shown across Canada on TSN:

- There are some who will not like this Caps victory at all and pick at the negatives, including a stretch of just over three minutes in the third stanza where Washington allowed three straight goals to lose a 3-1 lead. As Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau stated after the game, it was not the way you want to win, however, the Capitals did a lot of good things in this game and those types of positives will likely pay off down the road. One criticism of the Caps this season and in the past has been that they have a tendency to play too much on the perimeter, at times. In this contest, that was clearly NOT the case as line after line for Boudreau skated hard to the net all evening long. The result was four goals, all of which came in close, but if the puck had bounced the Caps way, and I thought the luck factor was clearly on Toronto’s side for much of this contest, Washington could have had at least six or seven. Here are how the goals were scored:

Goal 1: Mike Green takes a sweet feed from Semin in the slot on the power play and from in close he roofs it by Jonas Gustavsson (26 saves).

Goal 2: Matt Bradley gets the puck deep and then Boyd Gordon makes a great pass into the slot from behind the net where a streaking Jason Chimera bangs it home from the door step.

Goal 3: Washington’s offensive zone pressure results in a turnover and Brooks Laich passes the puck up the right wing boards to John Carlson at the point. #74 fires the biscuit on net and Tomas Fleischmann comes out from behind the cage and tips the puck by Gustavsson.

Goal 4: Another PP marker is notched when Ovechkin fires a shot on net that is partially blocked but Laich out works the Leafs defense in front of the cage and the puck bounces right to Semin on the left post and he roofs it to send the game to extra time.

Bottom line is if Washington shows that kind of desire to get traffic and drive for rebounds then they will score a lot of goals.

“Yeah, we had chances as did they. We went to the net and that’s how you score goals,” started Boudreau,”We talk about it and that is how you score goals. When [Semin] scored his goal on the power play, there is not too many guys in the National Hockey League who can pick it and put it there quickly.”

“That is absolutely right. The puck was bouncing around out there so the only play really was to shoot it at the net and have guys crash. Our forwards did a great job with that plan and I know I hit Brooksie a couple of times and we created some plays. We need more of that,” said #52 when asked if the Caps game plan against Toronto was to storm the crease.

- Neuvirth continues to be a major factor in the team’s early season success. Despite giving up four goals he made the big stops when they were needed. Early in period two, with the Leafs up a goal, he made a point blank save on Clarke Macarthur. In period three, with Toronto leading 4-3, Neuvirth thwarted a Leafs blast and he received some great help from Karl Alzner on the rebound, who batted the puck out of the air and out of harm’s way.  Finally, in the shoot out he stoned Phil Kessel when #81 tried to go five hole and then he shut down Nikolai Kulemin’s attempt setting the stage for Semin to win the game with his blast on Washington’s third shootout attempt (Caps won 2-0).

“You know what, we’ve asked a lot from him this year. We’ve played 12 games and he’s played in 11 of them and if you look he’s never played more than 45, 50 games, including playoffs in his pro career. So we are asking a lot of him right now for a first year guy to come in and stand on his head and he does. That is why he was rookie of the month and probably get more,” added the 2007-08 Jack Adams award winning bench boss.

“I think he’s incredible. I don’t want to pump him up too much here and get his head too big but he’s been outstanding for us and as a defenseman I feel so comfortable with him behind us. There is already a mutual bond that we feel that we have with him even though he’s only been here for the period of time he has been. You know he has a bright future ahead of him, as long as he stays focused here he’s going to be a great player for us,” said Green on the play of his rookie goaltender.

- Special teams played a key role in the victory and the Caps killed off three of four Leafs man advantage situations. Washington’s power play is red hot right now and is five for its last seven attempts.

 ”We finally are going back to the basics and creating the chances that we were creating last year. I think at the start of the year we were making the wrong plays at the wrong times and it’s taken almost a month and a half here to click again. It feels good out there,” said the two time Norris Trophy finalist on a power play that is starting to look like the one that was ranked #1 in the 2009-10 regular season.

- Green was -3 on the evening but he was on the ice for the Capitals two power play goals. In addition, he wasn’t the one primarily responsible for those tallies against. On the first Leafs goal, John Erskine leaves his feet in the slot and Kulemin has all day to get Neuvirth to go down and slide with him. That allowed #41 to slip the puck just inside the left post. Goal 2 against was the result of a horrible DJ King giveaway (-2 in just 8 shifts but he did fight Colton Orr in period one) while the third Toronto marker came when Jeff Schultz (-2) incorrectly pinched at the offensive blue line giving Kris Versteeg a breakaway. The final Leafs tally was on a power play and it was Schultz who could not tie up Tyler Bozak just outside the crease, and as a result #42 slid the puck around Neuvirth into the empty cage. #52 logged 30:17 of ice time and nearly won the game in OT but he hit the left post on a 4 on 3 power play ( he told me after the game he was still thinking about that post shot). His regular partner, Sarge, however, had his worst outing of the year. #55 logged 22:34 of ice time and seemed to constantly be indecisive and lack confidence, especially in the third period. Schultz, who had one of his best games of the season in Calgary last Saturday, just didn’t have it on this evening but his teammates bailed him out. Alzner was especially solid in this tilt and earned 22:32 of time on ice [Programming Note: King Karl will be on WNST 1570 Baltimore on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester in the 9am hour. You can listen live at WNST.NET].

- About those bad bounces I mentioned above, Nicklas Backstrom had an open net on a two on one break after a super Ovechkin feed but somehow Gustavsson dove back and got the toe of his stick on the shot to knock it wide. Eric Fehr also had a great chance that hit the knob of Gustavsson’s stick and deflected high while both Mike Knuble and Green hit pipes. Knuble also beat Gustavsson early on but Leafs d-man Luke Schenn swept the puck away on the goal line preventing a Washington tally.

 ”I’m not worried about [Knuble or Fehr], the media worries about them. Mike Knuble had three goals after 16 games last year and he ended up with 29 and he had a broken hand in between there where he probably could have had 35, he’s gonna get his goals. He gets chances every night and actually they will start going in for him, I firmly believe that. Eric Fehr, I thought played a lot better tonight. Had a couple good shots, had one hit the knob of the goalie’s stick and went wide and he had good energy. Sometimes it is hard to get out of the gate but they’re working at it. I have all the faith in the world in them,” finished Boudreau on two of his right wingers.

Notes: Ovechkin is now 2 for 2 on penalty shots this season and his routine has been to take the puck wide on the left wing boards and then cut in on the goalie. The move has worked and it appears to be giving the Great #8 more options with the puck…Toronto played without defensemen Dion Phaneuf, who severly cut his leg on Tuesday night vs Ottawa and will be out at least four weeks…the Leafs won the face-off battle, 38-31, with Nicklas Backstrom posting a poor 4-13 mark. Dave Steckel was tops for Washington at 8-3…Boudreau pretty much indicated Neuvirth will start again on Friday night vs. Boston at the Verizon Center. The Caps will likely face Tim Thomas, who is 7-0 this season and defeated Washington twice already last month.

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Questions Begin to Mount as Caps Lose to Bruins Again

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. The Washington Capitals outshot their opponents but lost to a hot goalie.

Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, who defeated the Caps on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center, did it again on Thursday in the Bruins home opener, stopping 38 of 39 shots en route to a 4-1 B’s triumph over an extremely inconsistent Capitals hockey team. The only goal by DC was from Jason Chimera, who tallied into an empty net after the Boston goalie misplayed the biscuit with just over 10 minutes left in the third period. With the loss Washington falls to 4-3 overall and after only seven contests some of the same issues from last spring’s playoffs are showing up in 2010-11.

So without further adieu, let’s get to the highlights, quotes and analysis from the Caps 2nd straight defeat to the Bruins in as many games:

- Thomas was good, but as was discussed on the Caps postgame show on Comcast, where were any Capitals to go to the net and screen the B’s goalie or fight for second chances? I did not see a whole lot of that and that is it what it takes to solve a goalie who is in a groove. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, perimeter hockey does not work and Boston used the same strategy the Canadiens employed last spring. They simply packed their defense in early on and made the Caps try and beat them with shots from the outside. When the Caps made a mistake, the Bruins would then counter attack and seek opportunities. The strategy is a bit of a risky one but when the opponent scores first, the Capitals tend to get lazy and play bad positional hockey that leads to penalties and more goals against. This is what happened on Thursday evening.

- Washington dominated the first 17 or so minutes and couldn’t score, primarily because noone fought for rebounds plus guys like Nicklas Backstrom, who had one of his worst games in a long time, missed glorious scoring chances. Then Matt Hendricks took a bad penalty in the offensive zone  with under two minutes left and when Jason Chimera got sucked to the side boards on the penalty kill, Patrice Bergeron slid a nice pass to Michael Ryder down low and he easily beat Semyon Varlamov (30 saves). That pass was able to be made because John Carlson was too high in the slot battling a Bruins forward, who was already tied up with John Erskine. Thus a 13-8 Caps first period shots advantage went for naught as the Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead.

- In the second period it was mostly Boston carrying the play as they had an 18-13 shots advantage and tallied twice to give them a 3-0 lead heading into period three. Speedy forward Jonathan Caron scored a huge goal to make it 2-0 after the Caps top line got caught on the ice too long and ran out of gas. Then midway through the period Alexander Semin took a hooking penalty and Nathan Horton blasted one through traffic, something that we aren’t seeing from the Caps power play, to make it 3-0 and pretty much end this game at 12:29 of the middle stanza.

“We got caught out there too long with Nicky’s line, they got one change in while the puck was in our zone, a great one by them, and we were too tired to move and they scored to make it 2-0. Then they scored on the power play to make it 3-0 and it’s pretty tough to come back on a team with a goalie playing like that when it is 3-0,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau on the turning point in the contest.

- As Boudreau said after the tilt, rookie Marcus Johansson was Washington’s best forward in the game. The young Swede sure can skate and his stick handling is pretty good too. MJ90 continues to get better and he is now playing 2nd line center between the very inconsistent Semin and a struggling Brooks Laich. He was a very respectable 5-4 on faceoffs on the road, where it is tougher to win draws. As for the rest of the centers on Washington, they were downright bad on Thursday. Backstrom couldn’t handle the puck all night and Tomas Fleischmann looks lost as a pivot. Even 4th line center Dave Steckel was a non factor and his stock continues to plummet. Center is still the area of biggest weakness on this Caps team and through seven games that is highly evident. How long does GM George McPhee stay with this crew of center ice men?

“Marcus was probably our best forward and I thought him and Chimera were really skating,” started the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on #90 and #26 before adding, “[changing the lines] is something I’ve got to think about with guys not producing. Is it because they are not playing well or because they are snakebit? I think they can all play better, it is a combination of both,” finished Boudreau.

- One area where the Caps are not struggling is in net. Varlamov played solid and did all he could to keep his team in the game but he was left out to dry too often. Boston had several breakaways and quality chances but #1 stopped most of them. It was really only on the penalty kill where he was unable to keep his finger in the dyke as a shorthanded unit that was 25 for 25 coming into Thursday’s tilt gave up three tallies on just four chances. Add in the fact that the Capitals power play went 0 for 4 with superstar Mike Green out of the lineup and you get a special teams differential of -3. NHL teams rarely win games when on the bottom end of that stat.

“We had lots of chances to score, we just didn’t. Normally our special teams, through seven games our penalty killing has been great, but our power play, which kept us at the top last year, hasn’t come through for us, so we’ll have to work on that tomorrow,” said Boudreau.

Notes: The Caps next game is home against the Thrashers on Saturday night before they embark on a three game road trip…Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon were both scratched due to injury…Washington won the face-off battle, 29-27…Alexander Ovechkin was credited with eight shots and five hits in 25:53 of ice time but he was held pointless and went -1.

Special thanks to Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) of The Washington Times for forwarding the post game quotes that were used in this blog.

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Defensive Mistakes Doom Caps in Loss to Bruins

Posted on 19 October 2010 by Ed Frankovic

On a night when the Washington Capitals would extend their 2010-11 perfect penalty killing mark to 25 straight successes, the Caps were defeated, 3-1, at the Verizon Center by the Boston Bruins. Tim Thomas was superb in goal stopping 35 shots and his club turned some Washington defensive gaffes into tallies en route to their first regulation victory in DC since 2006. The defeat drops the Caps to 4-2 overall and the two squads will meet again in Beantown on Thursday night.

Here are the highlights, quotes, and analysis from Tuesday night’s tilt:

Let’s start with the positives for Washington, because there weren’t a whole lot of them. First is clearly the penalty killing unit that was just outstanding once again. Using more players, the goal is to use four sets of forwards and all six defensemen on each minor, and employing an aggressive scheme has worked magic for assistant coach Dean Evason, who runs the special teams. With the Caps down 2-0 in the first period and Boston controlling the play, Washington’s Alexander Semin was whistled for tripping. Last season that might have spelled doom for the Caps because it often seemed that at critical junctures the penalty killing would fail when Washington needed a stop most. Now early on in this campaign the Caps shorthanded crew is not only thwarting the opposition, but the whole team seems to be getting an energy boost from the work of this unit.

Second, rookie Marcus Johansson had his best game as a Cap and notched his first ever NHL goal at 7:42 of the second period. The tally was set up by a good forecheck by Matt Hendricks and Jason Chimera. After Hendricks forced the puck away from Matt Hundwick, Chimera slid a pass to MJ90 near the right post and the young Swede buried it by Thomas. Johansson, who still struggled again on draws going 2-7, and Hendricks were the only Caps who were in the plus category (+1) on the night.

Third, when previously undefeated rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth left the game in the first period due to a reported illness after giving up the first two Boston tallies, Semyon Varlamov came in and made some good saves on some quality chances. Overall #1 yielded only a third period goal, that he never saw due to net traffic, on 14 shots. It was encouraging to get the Russian goalie back in the cage and he played rather well.

Finally in the positive department is the play of rookie defenseman John Carlson, who logged over 24 minutes of ice time, was not on for a goal against, and was clearly Washington’s best blue liner on a night when they sorely missed the great Mike Green (out day to day with an upper body injury).

The Caps did seem to have some energy and put out more effort at times, but overall it was a mediocore performance, at best. Some might point to the Caps shot advantage of 36-21 as a positive, but I won’t hear it. Washington did not do a good job of going to the net, especially on their anemic power play which continues to spend too much time passing the biscuit on the perimeter. The Caps received a late four minute power play with 1:20 to go so they pulled Varly and had a 6 on 4 advantage. However, Semin was the primary culprit of a crew that seemed to show no urgency or desire to get the puck to the net. Atrocious is what I call that last 80 second sequence and Evason needs to get this power play untracked quickly. My suggestion is to sit some of the skill guys and go with a crash the net and blast from the point mentality.

Tyler Sloan showed on Tuesday night why he is typically in the press box on game night. On the first Boston goal, his partner Karl Alzner pinched in the offensive zone. It was not a smart pinch by #27 but in the Caps aggressive system it is something the d-men are authorized to do. Unfortunately Nicklas Backstrom did not do a good job of covering for Alzner and Boston broke down the ice 2 on 1 on #89. Sloan then proceeded to defend like he had never faced an odd man breakaway in his career. First he failed on the opportunity to press the puck carrier, Nathan Horton, in the neutral zone and then he didn’t cut off the pass to David Krejci on the 2 on 1. It was awful defense and it gave Neuvirth no chance to stop Krejci’s shot. #89 needs to make sure he takes the pass and gives the shooter to the goalie in that situation. Sloan was also on the ice for the final Bruins goal but the primary blame on that one goes to the Caps forwards (Chimera and Eric Fehr) who failed to cover the points.

Speaking of not covering their point man, team captain Alexander Ovechkin was caught once again floating in the d-zone and that allowed Bruins d-man Johnny Boychuck to slide down on the right side and take a cross ice pass from Krejci. Neuvirth came out to cut the angle down on the Bruins d-man and #30 stopped the initial shot but Jeff Schultz was unable to clear the puck or Milan Lucic and #17 banged it home to make it 2-0. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Mike Knuble would all be -2 on the night and the Great #8 struggled against big Bruins defender Zdeno Chara all evening.

“Sometimes you have tougher nights than others. I thought his effort was there, I just didn’t think things were going well for that whole line,” said Boudreau on the play of Ovechkin and his first line.”

As for Neuvirth, who was outstanding in the first five games, Boudreau didn’t know that his young net minder was carrying any issues into the contest and was surprised when #30 pulled himself.

“After the second goal, he complained of dizziness and a headache. Then he came off, that was the first I knew of it,” said the 2007-08 Jack Adams Award winner on his starting goalie.”

In 2009-10 the Washington Capitals swept the season series from the Boston Bruins, primarily because the Caps used their significant advantage in the team speed department. In 2010-11 that advantage seems to have been reduced as the B’s now have a once again healthy Lucic plus they’ve added Horton and 2010 NHL 2nd overall draft pick, Tyler Seguin, who can flat out fly. In the first two periods the Bruins were able to keep pace with a Washington team that is still faster, but because Boston was more disciplined with their positioning they built an early 2-0 lead.

“I feel we’ve got pretty good balance on our lines. We’re capable of playing an up tempo game,” said Bruins Coach Claude Julien on his squad’s ability to handle speed in 2010-11.

Boston also has to be pleased with the resurgence of Thomas, who underwent hip surgery last spring, and appears to have regained the form that led Boston to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in 2008-09. He never looked shaky on Tuesday night and didn’t give Caps forwards much to shoot at in a stellar night’s work.

“That’s my style. I had to battle through some screens and there were some funny little tips that you had to stay on your toes for. We did a good job not giving them break aways or odd man rushes or all alone in the slot or anything like that. We did any excellent job. The times that I gave up rebounds, the D [defense] did a good job clearing them out too,” said the Bruins goalie, who is now 3-0 on the season.

Notes: Tom Poti returned to the lineup and logged 20:31 of ice time. #3 played okay but he was out of position on the 3rd Boston goal, which left Sloan having to fight off two B’s defenders in front of Varly…DJ King dressed and only logged 4:05 of ice time. Boyd Gordon was scratched as a result. Word has it he was a healthy scratch and if so that situation should be reversed in Boston on Thursday night (Gordon plays, King sits). Lucic had a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, and fight) and he slugged it out with John Erskine in the 3rd period…Hendricks and Gregory Campbell fought once again, they had a bout 2 seconds into the preseason tilt in Beantown in September. I gave the edge to #26 in this scrap…the Caps narrowly won the face-off battle, 28-27…the Caps attendance of 18,398 gave them their 64th straight home sellout.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Caps forward Matt Hendricks will be on WNST 1570 Baltimore at 925 am on Wednesday with Drew Forrestor on the Comcast Morning Show. Listen Live on WNST.NET.

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