Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 30 - Washington Capitals vs. San Jose Sharks (in San Jose)

Well, this has not been the best week for the Capitals. Blech. Three shots in the first period? Three?

I can't really theorize about what's going on with my team, but I can say that they have not been themselves the past two games. However, there's no debating that the Sharks are also a good team - a good team that we beat thoroughly when they were in DC this fall.

I received an interesting email from a family friend who happens to be a Sharks season ticket holder. He suggested several scintillating blog topics for me including: "Does Alex Ovechkin need therapy?" and "Why isn't Alex Ovechkin captain? Because he's a head case?"

Ahh, hockey fandom really does bring out the best in people doesn't it?

Allow me to humor Baskman and answer the above questions. First, lots of us need therapy, who cares if Ovie does? But I doubt he regularly sees a therapist. If he does, really, that's his decision, not a decision for the San Jose fans to make. And is he a head case? Maybe, but he's certainly a head case I want on my team.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind my readers just how much I love Alex Ovechkin. I wear a necklace with his #8 logo on it every single day. Yep. That is how much of a hockey dork I have become. He is the most inspiring athlete I've ever known of and one of the most inspiring people. Every time I watch him play I am reminded to live my life more fully, to embrace what I love and to enjoy every moment.

As for last night's game. One of the penalty shots was clearly a terrible call. John Erskine did not throw his stick. It was knocked from his hands. So now the Sharks are winning 4 to 2. Still not a good showing from the Caps. Clearly, they didn't have their act together, but the loss wasn't Ovie's fault. He scored one of the two goals for crying out loud and you really can't blame him for getting frustrated with the San Jose defenders who kept him boxed in a lot of the night.

The Capitals were trying to be too fancy and passed way more than they took shots on goal. In spite of the abysmal performance, I liked seeing Jason Chimera play. It was great that he got an assist and it was very nice to see Knuble score again. It's been a while and perhaps he's back in hockey shape after his injury.

The Sharks played well. They won in their own arena. Shall we remember when they were in DC not so long ago? That was the time the Capitals played well and won in their arena. Hmm.

Anyways, I am confident that the Caps will bounce back and start playing like the team they are in the new year. And if we should meet the Sharks in the playoffs, the Caps will be ready.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another Reason I Love Alex Ovechkin

Check out this cute photo of Ovie meeting with a Ukranian hockey team that is visiting the US. He may be flashy and love having models draped on his arms, but Alex Ovechkin also knows what's important and he always treats fans, especially little kids, really well. More than fancy cars and a flamboyant personality, how he interacts with regular people shows his character. Awesome athlete, charismatic superstar, good person.

December 28 - Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Well, that was a terrible hockey game. The Capitals did not look like the Capitals and I am guessing it had a lot to do with the trade that many players found out about when they arrived at Verizon Center for the game that afternoon. No matter how mentally tough a team is, losing two players so unexpectedly has to take a toll.

I think it was honestly the worst first period all season. The Capitals gave up three goals and took only four shots. It was painful to watch. To their credit, they tried to battle back and at one point had only a one goal deficit, but then the worst team in the NHL scored their fifth goal of the night and the hope in the room deflated.

The game ended with an empty-netter leaving the score at 3-6.

The Caps are no longer undefeated in the Southeast Division, but they're still leading the division by far. And really, who can blame them for being a little off their game?

Now they get to meet their new teammate and learn to play with him. I hope he's a good addition.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Hockey News!

The Capitals news of the moment is that Chris Clark (the captain) and Milan Jurcina were traded to the Columbus blue jackets for Jason Chimera, a winger who injured Ovechkin earlier this season. This means more cap space for salaries and the Caps need a new captain.

I was pretty surprised by this move. Neither Clark nor Jurcina were our best players, but they were certainly not the worst. I am sure the team will miss them. As an athlete, you must always know this is a possibility in the back of your mind, but it still has to be shocking when it happens.

From the fan's perspective, neither player was a favorite of mine, but I still think it's a little sad to take two guys off the team who have been a part of it for so long. Especially Clark who was around in the days when nobody showed up for games. What a bummer for him if the Caps go all the way this year.

I don't know much about this new Chimera character. He'll be wearing number 25. I hope he's a good fit for the team.

In other news, Alexander Semin signed a 1 year contract with the Caps which is great news. I am happy that Semin will be sticking around. I hope he renews again next year. He's a really great addition to the team (especially when he's not injured).

December 26 - Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils

Amazing game! We kept the Devils to only one goal. Ovie opened the scoring. Green and Backstrom also scored and Matt Bradley got a goal which is always an amazing sign for the game to come.

Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves and beat Martin Brodeur - the record-holder in shutouts and an amazing goalie. It was a really exciting game and a solid win over a team that beat the Caps in the three previous meetings this season. Whewh!

The Caps pr staff did a big thing about it being Hockey Night in Washington, which was pretty cute since it was Saturday night.

Even though the goals came mostly from the top players (and Bradley), it still looked like a solid team effort.

Beating New Jersey put the Caps back at the top of the eastern standings and secured a win over a team that they could very well face come playoff time.

A nice aside: Nick Backstrom (who was named to the Swedish Olympic team) got his 200th point of the night and was up on the big screen where Ovie and Semin were messing with him and waving their gloved hands in his face which was cute. Backstrom ended the night with 202 career points in 202 career games.

December 23 - Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabers

I was so nervous about this game after Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller kept the Caps from scoring in their last meeting. But, the Capitals kicked butt. It was a great game and it was particularly great to see Micheal Neuvirth so strong in goal.

I clearly waited too long to post about this game because I don't remember many details. I do, however, remember the awesome feeling of savoring the win over a tough team.

New years resolution # 1. Update blog right after games from now on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Hockey Day!

After lots and lots of away games, the Capitals are finally home and play Buffalo tonight.

Neil and I were supposed to be in Oregon hanging out with our new nephew and future Caps fan, Reuben, but Snowpacolypse 2009 kept us in DC. Since we're in town after all, we're very excited about tonight's game. It has been way too long since we've been able to cheer the Caps on in person.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 19 - Washington Capitals vs. Edmonton Oilers (at Edmonton)

I couldn't actually watch this game because for some crazy reason, I am unable to get CSN+ through my Comcast cable. I ended up listening to the radio broadcast online. Neil and I spent the entire day being snowed into our apartment because of Blizzard 2009 and counting the hours until the game and then when it was finally 10 pm, there was no game on TV. Blergh.

Listening to the broadcast wasn't terrible. I wish I could have seen them playing, but the broadcasters did a good job of telling me what was going on.

Basically, the first 40 minutes were lame  - a combo of the Edmonton goalie being on his game and the Caps not trying hard enough - and then the Caps caught fire. Ovie got two goals and an assist in the third period. Fleischmann and Backstrom each got a goal and the Caps won 4-2.

Apparently, Coach Boudreau gave an inspiring lecture (or really yelled at them) between periods 2 and 3 and it really worked.

Some interesting things about the radio broadcast:
1) You could hear the Edmonton announcer and he was funny-sounding. He sounded kind of nerdy.
2) You could hear when the fans cheered or booed and when Ovie scored there was a heck of a lot of cheering. Apparently there were many fans there in Ovechkin jerseys and I am sure not many of them actually live in DC.
3) In some ways, I was paying even closer attention to the game because I had to listen and then visualize what the announcers were saying. If I didn't know as much about hockey, it would have been really hard to follow, which is probably why I can't stand it when Neil tries to listen to radio broadcasts of football when we're in the car.

The Caps planned to fly home to DC last night and I wonder how that worked out for them since all the airports were closed nearly all of yesterday. Due to Snowpacolypse 2009, our trip to Oregon has been postponed and we'll be around for the home game Wednesday. I'm looking forward to seeing the Caps crack Ryan Miller and score some goals.

December 18 - Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks (at Vancouver)

We stayed up for this one and it was close, but the Caps did not have the spark they've had in recent games. It wasn't a terrible effort, it just wasn't awesome. The power play was extremely disappointing, especially for being first in the NHL. And Ovie wasn't really noticeable on the ice.

I wonder if there's a special added pressure that comes with playing in Canada? I know there was a circus in town around Ovie, and that must have taken a bit of a toll. Or perhaps it was the team dinner?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Caps are in Canada

The Capitals play in Vancouver tonight - really late!

Apparently, it's quite a scene around Ovechkin while he's in town. The Washington Post beat reporter said he couldn't get near Ovie after practice yesterday to hear what he was saying and the Vancouver ran an entire photo gallery today of Ovie at practice. They also ran this great article about Ovie and the Caps. I love the anecdote about the Vancouver player's son who is a huge Ovechkin fan.

It's been way too hockey-less in DC this past week or so. Sadly, I will be missing the game next week on the 23rd against Buffalo. If any of my blog readers want to buy the tickets, leave a comment with your email address and I'll get back to you. We need to sell them before our flight leaves tomorrow evening (hopefully it does leave and we don't get stuck in the blizzard).

Meanwhile, David Kochi was not suspended for his hit on Mike Green, which is pretty surprising given how much the league is cracking down on head shots and how they have been handing out other suspensions this season. Eh hem. Fortunately, Green says he's ready to play tonight... but the video of him with his black eye and stitches did not look good.

I'll be trying to stay up to see the game tonight and posting some overdue photos later on too. Go Caps!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 15 - Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche (at Colorado)

Well, THAT was convincing. The Capitals beat the Avalanche 6-1 last night in Denver in a fantastic game, marred only by Mike Green being hit from behind by David Koci and having to leave the game at the end of the second period. Hopefully Green will be ok and Koci will get a suspension for one of the dirtier boarding hits from behind that I've seen.

I love this story from the Denver Post. Awesome writing and very complimentary to the Caps. (How could it not be.) My favorite excerpt from the story:

"Washington came to the Pepsi Center — its first visit since Oct. 25, 2006 — and cut through the Avs with the swiftness and precision of one of Alexander Ovechkin's skates through the Pepsi Center ice, departing with a 6-1 win over Colorado.

"If this was one of those 'measuring stick' games, then the Avs are still Danny DeVito in comparison to Washington's stature."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 12 - Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Bummer. In spite of a stellar start to the game (which we missed because Comcast didn't have CSN+ on any channel) the Capitals completely collapsed and lost to the lowly Leafs.

Neil and I had to leave home and go to the Green Turtle to watch the game. For whatever reason, the bar was completely empty. We got a booth with our own TV, which was fun, and we ate some bad food and watched a bad game.

We'd left a holiday party early to make it home to watch the game and it was pretty disappointing to see them lose in such spectacular fashion. Based on Theo and Neuvirth's performances as of late, we really need Varly back in net. I have faith in both Theo and Neuvy, but they really didn't take the opportunity to step up their games last week. Varly is traveling with the team this week, but not expected to play.

Here's hoping the Caps bring their A game when they play the Avalanche tonight. We'll be staying up late to watch.

December 11 - Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricaines

The Caps won off a Mike Green game winning goal in overtime, but this game was intense! I think the Caps were tired, because the team that's first in the NHL should be more impressive against the team that's last in the NHL, but that just was not the case. This was one of those games where I was sitting on my hands and trying not to bite my nails the whole time.

On the way in, I saw a guy in an awesome hat. I am not sure why he wears it, but he told me he's asked to pose for photos frequently. I suppose it is cold in the arena... but I think my head would be hot under that woolly monster.

It was also kid's night at the game so there were tons of mascots running around acting silly. After the game we saw Elmo rocking the red (like he can help it).

It was fun to be at a home game and to see Green get the game winning goal in overtime. After the game, the Caps headed off for a long stretch on the road. They'll be missed around DC.

Friday, December 11, 2009

December 9 - Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabers (at Buffalo)

I have been avoiding posting about this stinker of a game. It is very sad when the Capitals get shut out. Blergh.

It was clear that they weren't playing their best. It was also clear that Miller, the Buffalo goalie, was amazing. Wow.

I hope this is the only shutout of the season and that the Caps get back to winning.

Knuble is rumored to be back in the lineup for tonight's game and that's certainly promising.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When The Canadians Declare It, It's Official and Hockey Players are Tough

Canada's national paper, The Globe and Mail has a great column in today's edition declaring the Capitals "the real deal". Now, I've known this to be true for a few years at this point, but when the Canadian hockey media makes such a bold declaration, that's a good sign. (Thanks to my Canadian friend Lia for pointing this article out to me.)

Another good read from today's hockey news is this story about Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt who was hit by an SUV yesterday and still played in last night's game against Philadelphia. Of course, he was hit in Philly, home of the meanest hockey fans and apparently drivers as well. I watched this game last night and was dismayed to see that the Flyers seemed to have gotten out of their slump. But since the Caps are the real deal, I'm not too worried.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 7 - Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (at Tampa)

Caps are #1 in the NHL!

Ovie scored two goals!

Varly recorded a shut out!

The Caps have beat Tampa 12 times in a row!

Last night's 3-0 shutout was yet another convincing win for my Capitals. The game against the Flyers was a bit more entertaining, but 3 goals was plenty for last night. It was great to see Ovie back in action and with two goals. He's only one behind the lead in the NHL even with all the games he's missed this season. (I think it's 8 total).

Also last night, Matt Bradley and his wife had their first baby, a boy named Henry. Bradley skipped the game last night and flew home to be with his wife - good choice.

It's nice to be on top of the NHL standings, but the more important thing is for the team to keep up the strong team play and hopefully it will peak during the playoffs this spring.  There sure is a lot to love about the Capitals right now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 5 - Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers (at Philadelphia)

Question: What is even better than a strong win over a Southeast division opponent?

Answer: A complete and total walloping of the Philadelphia Flyers!

The Capitals triumphed over the Flyers 8 to 2. That's right eight goals for the Caps! It was pretty amazing to watch from my cozy couch after a snowy day here in DC.

The biggest headline of the game other than the phenomenal score is probably Dan Carcillo, a Flyer who sucker punched Matt Bradley, getting himself expelled from the game and giving the Caps a nine-minute power play during which the Caps scored three times. Carcillo was suspended for four games for the move, and rightly so. I don't recall seeing anything quite that egregious in any game I've watched. Luckily, after some (more) stitches, Bradley is apparently ok.

The rest of the game was pretty amazing. Fleishman and Green each scored twice. The other goals came from Laich, Backstrom, Clark and the final goal went to David Steckel who had yet to score this season. I was hoping he'd get one and in the final few minutes of the game, he finally did.

The Flyers were playing their first game with a new coach and have been having a tough time lately. Everyone expected them to be on fire for their first opportunity to show off for the new man in charge. Not so much. Any fire that was there was quickly extinguished by the Caps.

The Caps keep roaring through their games, even without Ovechkin. Ovie should be back tomorrow night when the team plays Tampa Bay. I hope Matt Bradley is back, too.

Friday, December 4, 2009

December 3 - Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers

Awesome game! Welcome back Alex Semin. The Caps demolished the Panthers last night with a final score of 6-2. Had the game ended 3:22 earlier, it would have been 6-0.

Matt Bradley got a short handed goal (the first for the Caps this season), so I knew it was going to be a good game. As I have said before, when Matt Bradley scores, you know things are going to go well.

Fleishman, Backstrom and Morrison also scored and Semin notched two goals and two assists. Wow.

Sure the Panthers were tired and we're a better team, but a convincing win like this is always a great thing to see.

The Panthers were in the penalty box nearly the entire third period after one of their players was kicked out of the game and the Caps got a 7 minute power play. Seven minutes! It was nuts.

I actually went to the game on my own. Neil joined for the tail end of the first period, all of the second period and the very beginning of the third. I had a lot of anxiety about not being with Neil or a friend at the game, but it was actually completely fine because the guy who normally sits near Neil is friendly with us and we talked. Normally, I can't really talk to him because Neil is between us, but last night he kept me company. On the other side of me, there are two seats that are shared by a large group of people.

The guy who came to the game last night is someone I scared to death last year (on accident) when I flinched when he put his beer in the cup holder between us. I do not actually remember the encounter, but I am guessing it was a game or two after the guy behind me spilled beer on my head and my sweatshirt and jacket and was so drunk he didn't care. I became a little touchy about the stuff after that. Anyways, the guy who was scared of me always keeps his beer on his other side when he's at games. Last night, we talked and I apologized for whatever I did last year to scare him and it became friendly enough that every time there was a goal (for those of you who may have forgotten, there were 6) we jumped up and high fived.

In summary, going to games alone isn't really like going alone because I know the people who sit near us.

I am still annoyed about Ovie's suspension, but only one more game until he's back. He was apparently skating full speed at practice today and has cast aside the knee brace he'd been wearing. Yay! I am guessing he'll be on fire in his first game back. Just a theory.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Way to Go George McPhee

Caps GM George McPhee spoke on the radio this morning about Ovie's suspension and why he doesn't think it was deserved. So well-said. It's really nice that team officials are standing up for him.

"In my mind the player was trying to make a hit and it went wrong," McPhee said. "And that's ok. When you're trying to hurt someone, if you're trying to do something where a player is vulnerable or he doesn't see you coming--you hit him from behind, you hit him from the blindside--I want those hits punished. But in this instance, it was an open-ice check, and it was a good attempt at a hit that went wrong, and sometimes they're gonna go wrong.

"You have a player in Ovechkin who is one of the league leaders in hits, and they're not all gonna go right. But if it's an attempt at a legal hit and it goes wrong, it doesn't mean it's suspend-able. And in my mind, when there's no intent to injure, and there is no injury, you can't suspend the guy. And the league's concern is that Ovi's really been physical lately and he's going to hurt someone. I said, 'Well, if he hurts someone, suspend him.' But you can't suspend someone for something that might happen."

Awesome! To read more of McPhee's comments go here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Good Column To Check Out

I can get behind this good column in today's Post by Thomas Boswell. I do hope Ovie adds an ounce of caution to his game/life. I would like to be inspired by him for many more years.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Too Many Ovie Haters

Hockey blogs (and, briefly, my Facebook page) are ablaze with anti-Ovechkin sentiment today after his knee-on-knee hit in last night's game.

I know we love to hate the hockey players that we love to hate. I can go on for a while about my dislike for Sidney Crosby. But I know he's a good player and I don't wish for him to be injured.

I know I am a major Capitals fan and that fandom was sparked by the pure joy for life that Ovie plays with. But, still, I wonder how so many people can cast him as the villain in their minds. I am positive that Ovie didn't mean to hurt anyone. I know that he just wants to play good hockey and he never hits to be mean or to injure. He has done too many things in his time as a Capital that show his good character. His coaches and the team owner attest to him being a good person. I have seen him interact with fans, with teammates and with opponents and he has been nothing but kind. You just can't fake that. He may be overly aggressive or reckless at times and I hope he will play with a bit more caution from here on out, but he's not the bad guy.

He's losing a chunk of money for his two game suspension - nearly $100,000. I doubt that matters too much to him, but it's still significant. His statement on his suspension speaks for itself:

"I regret that this has happened. I'm glad that Tim wasn't injured because I never ever want to see anyone get hurt. I am disappointed to miss these games and I can't wait to get back on the ice next week to help my team."

My question to fans of other NHL teams who are so down on Ovie: Would you be wishing for long-term suspensions and season-ending injuries if Ovie were on your team?

Let me answer that for you. If the Penguins let Crosby go and he became a Capital, only an idiotic Caps fan would keep up the hating. I would welcome him with open arms. Hell, I'd buy his jersey. He'd never be my favorite player, Ovie's got that one locked up, but I'd be happy to have him on my team. Who out there really wouldn't be happy to have Ovie on their team?

Maybe, just maybe the hockey fan community should wish health for all the players in the NHL so that they can keep playing great games and entertaining us for another 5 months (hopefully more like 6.5 for my Caps).

Ovie Updates

Some potentially promising news from Capitals Insider originally posted at 10:56 this morning:

"Alex Ovechkin came out onto the ice here at KCI for less than five minutes moments ago wearing a red track suit. Nothing strenuous, took some strides, handled the puck a couple of times, then left the ice.
The team has not made an any announcement regarding his status."

UPDATE: This afternoon, the team announced that Ovie is officially day to day with a "sore knee". They aren't saying whether he was x-rayed or got an MRI.

In other news, Alex was suspended for two games for the hit. I wonder if it's two games after he's ready to play, or two games period. Maybe he'd miss two games anyways with the injury? Though, Coach Boudreau sounded in his press conference today, like he wouldn't be surprised if Alex was ready to play by Thursday's game against Florida.

It sounds like the entire situation is WAY better than it might have been. Ovie is skating already and is only day to day and he was only suspended two games as opposed to longer. Whewh.

November 30 - Washington Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes

The Caps won the game, which is great. Jose Theodore was outstanding. Backstrom scored twice and got one assist and Eric Fher continued his streak with a goal and an assist.

BUT, Ovie got injured and while there are no details yet, it looked pretty bad. He hit a Carolina defenseman knee on knee and definitely got the worst of it. Ovie got a major penalty again and was ejected from the game, but it didn't matter because he couldn't even use his leg when he was taken off the ice.

It's funny. I spend a good deal of my free time attending hockey games, watching hockey games on TV and thinking about hockey (hence, this blog). One of my major fears is Capitals players getting hurt, especially Ovechkin. Watching him hurt on the ice last night made me so sad. I worried about his health, the effect it will have on the team, etc. But maybe even more than that, it was sad because Ovie is like a DC superhero in a way. He's impossibly strong and fast. He's always saving the day in hockey games and as a fan, I want to believe he's indestructible. Of course, he is not. He's fragile and human just like the rest of us... and, don't get me wrong, I like his humanity, too. But if only he had a little more superhero in him last night when he hit his knee.

The team is supposed to release some information on Ovie's condition today after he's seen by the team doctor. I hope it's good news. I hope the injury is not as bad as it looked.

Right now, I am pretty sure that the collective Capitals fan community is holding its breath.