Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Hockey New Year!

Hockey Mom wants to wish all of you great hockey fans out there a very happy (and safe) New Year! New Year's Day has traditionally been a day dedicated to college football, but in HM's household the day is all about hockey.

We kick off New Year's Day with the highly-anticipated NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago. I absolutely love this idea of outdoor hockey - taking the game back to its roots. I hope that one of the Winter Classics in the coming years might feature our own Washington Capitals! Obviously it's not cold enough in D.C. to host it here but I'm not averse to traveling to a cold climate (heck, I spend half my life in an ice rink)!

Then at 7 p.m., the Caps will see another visit from division rivals Tampa Bay. Note to self: For an example of how to run a professional sports team into the ground, just google the Tampa Bay Lightning's new owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules.

But unlike the Lightning, Caps fans had much to be thankful for in 2008. Here's just a look at some of the highlights in the past year:
  • Caps won the Southeast Division championship last season and has a 10-point lead in the division this year

  • The Capitals reached the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2003

  • The team posted a 31-6-3 home record at Verizon Center with 14 sellouts

  • Alex Ovechkin has scored 60 goals in 2008 (10 more than any other player), posted 113 points (second only to Evgeni Malkin, 124), won four major NHL awards, received the Key to the City of Washington, D.C., signed a new 13-year contract, played in the NHL All-Star Game, led Russia to a gold medal at the World Championship, won NHL First Star of the Month three times and launched his own designer clothing line

  • Bruce Boudreau was named NHL coach of the year and was selected for induction in the AHL Hall of Fame

  • Nicklas Backstrom played in the NHL YoungStars Game and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team

  • The team recorded three winning streaks of five games or more

  • The organization retired Mike Gartner’s No. 11
So 2008 was a record-breaking and exciting year for the Capitals and their great fans - Hockey Mom can't wait to see what 2009 brings for the team.....

Caps Break the Streak in Buffalo

HSBC Arena hasn't been historically kind to the Washington Capitals, where the team is 1-7-0 in their last eight visits to the land of Buffalo wings. But alas, the Caps set the record straight against the Buffalo Sabres with a solid victory in front of a bummed-out home crowd.

Brooks Laich continued on his smoking hot scoring streak, notching the first Capitals' goal in the first period. And a huge Hockey Mom toast to Chris Bourque, who scored his first NHL goal tonight - I'm sure his dad was sporting a huge smile! Nicklas Backstrom netted the third goal to make it a 3 - 0 contest into the third period. Net minder Jose Theodore, whose game seems to be improving as the season goes on, had another fine showing. Theo rendered the Sabres scoreless until late in the third when a shot by Adam Mair took a lucky bounce off the post (ping!) to make the score 3 - 1.

HM was eager to see Sabres' prospect Nathan Gerbe suit up for the opposition. Gerbe was the MVP of last year's Frozen Four and led Boston College to the 2008 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship. All of this, and he stands a mere 5'6. You know how Hockey Mom is always rooting for the little guys - especially in the NHL where the average player is 6 feet tall or over!

A flurry of action broke out with under 60 seconds in the third period, as Boyd Gordon scored on a short-handed empty net goal and then the Sabres' Clarke MacArthur slid the puck in on Theodore. So the Caps end 2008 with another win (final score: 4 -2) and head home for a string of games at the Verizon Center, where they've outscored opponents 59-31. Not a bad way to kick off 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

AO Notches Another Star

A big Hockey Mom high five to Alex Ovechkin, who earned the NHL's First Star of the Week for his highlight-reel performances last week, which have helped propel the Caps to the number two spot in the Eastern Conference! The boys are playing some good hockey and need to keep it up as they'll face a Sabres team looking for a win on home ice tonight.

And speaking of stars, check out Corey Masisak's piece on possible All-Star game nods for some popular Capitals players. Call me crazy, but the NHL should be put in the penalty box and feel shame for not including the League's MVP Alex Ovechkin in the All-Star game's starting lineup...

If you didn't catch the buzz earlier, there was an uproar over the rumor that the Montreal Canadiens fans were "stuffing the ballot boxes" via automated computer voting when the voting first opened to the public. I'm no mathematical genius (which is why I work in marketing) but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to question why the Hab's Alexei Kovalev sits at third place for All-Star forwards (with a record of 9 goals, 19 assists and 28 total points on the season) while Alex the Great is in fifth place with 25 goals, 24 assists and 49 points! You do the math and tell me if that makes a lick of sense...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Welcome Home Mike Gartner

Photo courtesy of Washington Capitals

As Hockey Mom's hockey boys are off the ice for the weekend, I am at the Phone Booth to celebrate the retirement of former longtime Capital and Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner's number 11. This is my first retirement ceremony (and unfortunately Hockey Mom's retirement is light years away) and I have a great view of all the festivities from the press box.

Gartner is only the fourth Cap to have his number retired and it is a well-deserved honor for a player who ranks second in Capitals history in goals (397), assists (392) and points (789). And did I mention he had a slap shot that could take your head off? Many of Gartner's former team mates including Wes Jarvis, Yvon Labre and Rod Langway came out on the red carpet to honor this notorious and much-loved former Capital. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the current Caps all donned white retro jerseys bearing number 11 during pre-game warm ups. He was also presented with a several momentos of his fabulous career. After Gartner expressed his gratitude and thanked his family, the Caps organization and the great Caps fans, Mike Gartner's number 11 banner was ceremoniously raised to the Verizon Center rafters.

If you've never been to a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, I have to warn you that folks from Leafs Nation are some of the rowdiest hockey fans you ever want to meet. And apparently there were several bus loads of then on hand to help celebrate with Mike Gartner. The whooping and hollering from the blue and white faithful started before the two clubs even hit the ice.

Of course AO had one of the first shots on goal but was denied by Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala. The opening minutes saw lots of hard hitting, despite the absence of Leafs agitator Ryan Hollweg who was a scratch. And great news for Caps fans, both Jeff Schultz and Mike Green are healthy and back on the ice! Speaking of Green, one of prettiest scoring chances at 5:52 in the first period came from a #52 slap shot that came short of crossing the red line - but it was wicked regardless.

Unfortunately, the Leafs fans are raising all sorts of cain in the seats below me as their team scored first on a goal from Niklas Hagman. And a first for Hockey Mom, I have never witnessed a goalie get a misconduct penalty in a professional game (not that is doesn't happen - just that I've never seen one). But that's exactly what happened to Jose Theodore as he got cited for diving. So at the end of the first period, the score is 1 - 0 in favor of Toronto.

Early second period saw a Maple Leafs power play as a result of an interference call against the Caps but Jose Theodore made some pretty sweet saves to avert pending disaster. Brooks Laich (also recognized in the locker room as the Caps' reigning ladies man) netted his ninth goal of the season to tie the score at one apiece.

Captain (Chris) Clark took offense with the Leaf's Jonas Frogren late in the second period and a bout of very animated pushing and shoving ensued. Clarkie and his Leafs pal went to the sin bin and moments later, a fired-up Alex Ovechkin scored yet another of his beautiful goals to give the men in red a 2 -1 advantage. And yes, sports fans, you can use the terms 'pretty' and 'beautiful' to describe hockey plays. I have to add a feminine touch somehow as I am one of the few women on this side of the press box tonight (besides the lovely Lisa Hillary of course - who Hockey Mom would love to interview soon).

There was yet another diving call (c'mon guys - this isn't the Summer Olympics) in the third period from the Leafs' Andre Deveaux and the Caps' Sean Collins took an interference penalty, resulting in a 4 on 4. Meanwhile, Chris Clark seems to have returned full-strength to his physical, gritty style after returning from the injured list.

Brooks Laich lit the lamp for his second tally of the evening with an unassisted goal with about 3:10 left in the third, earning himself the team's red hard hat for the evening. Just to make sure no loose ends were left untied, Alex Ovechkin made the empty net goal for a final score of 4 - 1 in favor of the Caps.

Accompanied by my veteran blogger pal with Storming the Crease, Hockey Mom made her first foray into the Capitals' locker room post-game (I'd previously only been in the visitor's locker room). I laughed when one of the media members remarked about the not-so-fresh smell of the locker room and I have to admit I didn't even notice (reminds me of my car which carries two funky-smelling hockey bags in the back on most days). In the Caps' locker room, Brooks Laich was sporting his well-deserved red hard hat while granting interviews. And Mike Green reported that his shoulder is feeling quite well these days - he's excited to be back in the game and Caps fans are thrilled to see him back.

So here's to another memorable night at the Verizon Center on so many fronts - congrats again to Mike Gartner and here's hoping the Caps continue on this nice run!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Match Up with Buffalo

Mike Green watches 12-year-old Bilal Gholson play with a Nintendo DS that Green gave Gholson for Christmas. Photo courtesy of Washington Capitals

Hockey Mom hopes everyone had a happy holiday and wishes our Canadian neighbors a happy Boxing Day!

Washington Capitals' defense man Mike Green helped make one local family's holiday a little brighter, delivering clothes and toys to 12-year-old Bilal Gholson and his 11-year-old sister Naimah and surprising Bilal's grandmother and mother with gift certificates.

Green connected with the family through Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities Family EMPOWERment Center, which was created to advance the individual and collective interests of people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities in the Washington, D.C. area.

“This was truly something special, to see the children’s faces opening up their presents on Christmas Day, it just doesn’t get better than that,” said Green. “It was fun spending time playing with the children, listening to music and playing basketball. This was something I won’t forget.” The Caps do so many great things to help others and spread so much cheer (especially among the children) - keep up the great work!

So now that the holiday rush is over, it's back to all hockey - all the time, in HM's household. We're currently flipping the channels between watching the Caps take on the Buffalo Sabres and Team Canada contest Team Czechoslovakia in the IIHF World Junior Championships. Of course, that's all between testing out the new Guitar Hero World Tour that appeared under the tree yesterday!

Back to the Boxing Day match up with the Buffalo Sabres, who boast one of the NHL's leading scorers in sniper Thomas Vanek. Though the injury-depleted Caps are still missing Mike Green, Alex Semin, Tom Poti,
Jeff Schultz, Sergei Fedorov and John Erskine, the great news was that captain Chris Clark suited up and took to the ice tonight after being on long-term injured reserve. Feds will remain on long-term injured reserve until at least January 9th, allowing the team to keep Karl Alzner on the roster for the time being.

Both the Caps and the Sabres were scoreless through the first period but things got more exciting late in the second with Viktor Kozlov (who's enjoying a nice scoring streak) lighting the red lamp first. The Caps faithful thought there was second goal courtesy of the Great 8 minutes later, but the call was goalie interference on the part of Brooks Laich and the goal was called back. Donald Brashear (with help from Boyd Gordon) scored number two for the men in red to take a 2 goal lead.

Early in the third, the Sabres' Thomas Vanek was the beneficiary of a piece of Ovechkin's wicked wrist shot and was in obvious pain as he made his way to the bench. He wasn't set back for long as he scored for Buffalo on a power play.

With close to 11 minutes left in the third, Ovie showed us all once again why he is the Most Valuable Player in the NHL and a favorite of hockey fans world-wide with a magnificent display of stick work and speed to net number three for the Caps! Wow - his final third period goal is a highlight reel for the ages! I am forever using Alex Ovechkin as an example for my boys. Yes, he is ridiculously gifted but the thing that always inspires me is his resilience and work ethic. The guy NEVER gives up and plays all out, every shift - every second. He is a true role model in both his on-ice abilities and the enthusiasm with which he approaches anything thrown his way.

Sorry, I digress, but who doesn't just love watching that guy? At 1:49 in the third, Ovie's fellow countryman Maxim Afinogenov touched the puck while doing his "nine lords a leaping" imitation which took a lucky Buffalo bounce into Jose Theodore's crease to make the score 3 - 2. But after pulling goalie Patrick Lalime to add an extra skater, the Sabres were unable to score and the Caps notched another win with a final score of 3 - 2.

So on Boxing Day, all of the Caps fans rocking their new holiday red have one more victory to celebrate and big smiles on their faces. Next up, the team will honor the great Mike Gartner as they retire his jersey on Sunday night prior to taking on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Comes Early - Caps Stun Rangers in OT Win

Christmas came early to the "cardiac" Capitals as they miraculously came back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the New York Rangers in OT at Madison Square Garden.

After a rough, no make that ugly start, in which Jose Theodore let in 3 out of 5 goals by the Blue Shirts, it seemed that the injury-depleted Caps wouldn't make it out of this one with the win. Theo was relieved of net duties for a brief stint by a sick Brent Johnson, and then returned to the crease to stop 19 attempts by New York. But the biggest star in Broadway tonight was none other than the reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin. Ovie started the scoring in the second period and his takeaway and resulting goal in the third made for a highlight reel for the ages! Pal Nick Backstrom had three assists and Viktor Kozlov and Tomas Fleischmann netted power play goals in the third in front of a Rangers team who had suddenly lost a 4-1 lead.

Shaone Morrison scored his first goal since last February to take the victory in OT and the Caps leave the Big Apple with their sixth win in seven games.

So see Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! As Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau noted about the win: "The good thing is we were down 4-0 early. It's almost better. If we could get one and start believing ... that's all we kept thinking about in the room. If you believe, it can happen."

How's that for Christmas spirit and a fabulous Christmas comeback?

"If you believe, it can happen..."

So congrats Caps for a thrilling contest and Hockey Mom wants to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bah Humbug! Caps Routed 7 -1

Photo courtesy of AP/Tom Mihalek

If there is one team in the National Hockey League that I pretty much despise, it has to be the thugnasty Filthadelphia Flyers. And to lose to them in front of their home crowd 7 - 1, despite the Caps having about a trillion shots on goal, pretty much sucked the holiday spirit and good tidings right out of Hockey Mom. The Flyers came out swinging as usual and the only good thing about today's game was that Donald Brashear attempted to rearrange Flyers' bad boy Riley Cotes' face (twice).

You have to give their goalie Antero Nittymaki credit for playing a fantastic game - it's been a long time since I've seen AO shut out like that. And how about glove-throwing Scott Hartnell - he of the Bozo the Clown hairstyle - with a flipping hat trick? Ugh... I dunno what else to even say about today's debacle, except that I hope Gabby makes those boys watch that horrible game tape over and over and that Mike Richards and his pals get coal in their stockings next week...not that Hockey Mom's bitter or anything. Hey, I never said I was a good sport all the time...especially when it comes to Philly. Bah humbug!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Christmas for St. Louis?

The St. Louis Blues are in town to take on the rockin' red Capitals at the Phone Booth. The Blues have been bitten hard by the injury bug - something the Caps are all too familiar with - and the team just announced today that their captain Eric Brewer will be out indefinitely due to back surgery.

The Blues will have a big man in net in the form of goalie Ben Bishop, who stands tall at 6'7" (the same height as our man "Stretch" Brett Leonhardt)!
Simeon Varlamov will mind the Caps' goal with his proud papa watching in the stands.

In other BIG hockey news, Mats Sundin has finally gotten off his duff to make a decision to either play or retire and will join my other favorite twins (AKA Daniel and Henrik Sedin) as the newest member of the Vancouver Canucks. Sundin had his options narrowed down to the Canucks and the Rangers and in the end, signed a one-year, pro-rated contract for $10 million.

Hockey Mom is fighting off a bug and I'm hoping to make it through tonight's game in its entirety. Hockey moms don't get sick days and besides having the holidays around the corner, we have the Pee Wee version of the "Winter Classic" this weekend. Our guys are playing at an uncovered outdoor rink, which should be very cool (literally). Right now the forecast for Sunday is calling for a rain/snow mix, so I am pounding the Cold-Eez in anticipation of the busy weekend and cold weather.

This weekend will also see the Caps pay a holiday visit to a hostile Wachovia Center as they meet last year's playoff foes, the Philadelphia Flyers. I can assure you that there is no love lost between these two teams and they probably won't be wishing each other "Season's Greetings" if you see any on-ice chatter between them. The Flyers' Jeff Carter stands at second in the entire NHL in goal-scoring, so the Caps can expect to meet a tough crowd. Of course, Philly always makes for a tough crowd, right?

So the Caps took the early lead with a goal from Viktor Kozlov (his first of two on the night). Late into the third period, Varlamov had only allowed one goal on his net. Meanwhile the Caps saw more scoring from Kozlov, Fleischmann and Ovie to take a 3-point lead at 4 - 1. With 8:25 left in the third, a Blues pass took an unlucky bounce off of Ovie's stick to cut the Caps' lead to 2. This game got ugly after Alex Semin got completely roughed up (and the refs totally blew off a roughing call that even my Hockey Grandma could have seen). Ovie took matters into his own hands as he saw his pal in a heap on the ice, then the Caps sent out the big guns in the form of Donald Brashear. Jeez, I hope Semin is okay - we just got him healthy for crying out loud!

Event though this wasn't the prettiest of victories, the Caps pulled off a 4 -2 win and looks like St. Louis will indeed have a blue holiday with yet another loss and a bench full of injuries. Simeon Varlamov had another impressive game; I'm sure his dad is thrilled to pieces!

Let's all keep our collective fingers crossed that Semin doesn't go back on the injured list. See you all Saturday when the men in red take on the Flyers...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Need a Super Special Fan Gift? Bid on a Happy Hockey Holiday Basket!

If you're still looking for that extra special gift for the Caps fan who has everything, no worries - the Capitals and Capitals Wives Club have you covered! The Washington Capitals and the team's Wives Club will hold their annual Happy Hockey Holiday Silent Auction on Thursday, Dec. 18, when the Caps host the St. Louis Blues (minus one of HM's favorite players, Manny Legace). Bidding will take place at the community relations table located at section 104 on the main concourse, starting when doors open at 6 p.m., and will conclude when the puck is dropped to start the third period.

Capitals’ wives are creating and donating gift baskets with their husbands’ favorite things. Each basket will include at least one autographed item. The funds collected will benefit Washington Capitals Charities. Last season the wives club collected $12,000 from their Happy Holiday Silent Auction. Six of the baskets went for more than $1,000, with Michael Nylander’s raising the most money at $2,000. As you can see from Ovechkin's and Semin's basket, those 2 snipers must share a fondness for Snickers and Skittles!

So as you've all probably heard by now, anger management poster boy Sean Avery no longer has a hockey home with the Dallas Stars. I heard the news on the treadmill at the gym yesterday, when "Breaking News" came across the ESPN ticker. But no details were forthcoming at the time. Where was ESPN Hockey's man on the street (literally) Barry Melrose when we needed him?

Apparently, Avery is at some sort of "facility" seeking anger management treatment. The rumor mills are spinning as to where the sport's most-annoying pest might end up but don't be surprised if it's not another NHL team. Hey, maybe he can go over to Russia's KHL for a stint - their rosters are full of former NHL bad boys who couldn't play by the rules (see Chris Simon and Ray Emery). And apparently current KHLer Jaromir Jagr has already come to the defense of Avery, his former Rangers team mate. And so the drama continues....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Caps Visit Habs Land with New Face in Net

The Washington Capitals are in the hockey hotbed of Montreal to meet the history laden and injury plagued Canadiens. In the opening period, rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov exhibited the steel composure of a veteran in his first NHL stint between the pipes. The Caps lit the lamp first with a power play tally from Nick Backstrom assisted by his line mates, Alex and Alex.

Second period, Alex Ovechkin took a high-sticking penalty after practically being mauled by Tom Kostopolous, AO returned the favor by accidentally sticking Kostopolous in the schnozz. Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak got his bell rung (or was just milking it) midway through the second period when Alex Semin stormed the crease (with assistance in the form of a push from behind from some friendly Canadiens).

With less than 8 minutes left in the second, young Varlamov made a spectacular stop on a shot from Tomas Plekanec. The Canadien's Patrice Brisebois tied it up with an even strength goal near the end of the second period.

I love the Hockey 101 features conducted by assistant coach Dean Evason, where he demonstrates hockey fundamentals on the ice with various Caps players. This is a great feature for young hockey players as well as hockey newbies just learning the ins and outs of this great game.

Third period brought a slashing call against Alex Kovalev, who is one of those players that deserves a Golden Globe award for his on-ice embellishments and often dramatic exaggeration in trying to draw penalties. Alexandre Giroux had a sweet breakaway but was denied by Halak. Well into the third period, Varlamov was still enjoying his stellar debut, facing a flurry of shots from the Habs. Who says the kid's not ready for primetime?

At less than 3 minutes left in the final period, Michael Nylander had a goal reminiscent of the one Ovie made famous, scoring as he slid nearly into the goal on his back (though the puck may have taken a lucky bounce off of a skate in the process)!

So the Capitals earn another hard-fought victory, thanks to an unbelievable first NHL game from Varlamov. Varlamov fell to his knees (probably in exhaustion) at game's end and was mobbed with congratulatory hugs by the rest of the Capitals! It is absolutely the Year of Backup in the National Hockey League!

Way to go boys - here's a huge Hockey Mom toast to another big Caps win and also to commemorate Sergei Fedorov's 39th birthday!

Cap's Backup Goalie - A "Cinderella" Story

In case you've been under a rock or are completely hungover from holiday festivities, you've probably already heard about the situation the Washington Capitals found themselves in while scrambling to get their backup goalie (Simeon Varlamov from Hershey) on the bench for the Ottawa Senators game last night. After Jose Theodore became another statistic in the Cap's unlucky injury streak, the team scrambled to get Varlamov to D.C. from Texas in time for the game. Logistics issues made it obvious that he would not be in Verizon Center in time for puck drop so the Caps went to "Plan B" - which has become a Cinderella story of sorts. Only this Cinderella is a very big dude - about 6'7" to be exact.

Brett Leonhardt, a former college goalie and a Web producer for the Caps in his day job, got the call of a lifetime yesterday. Leonhardt, also known as "Stretch", took the warmup with the team and sat as the official team backup goalie until Varlamov was safely in the house. Hockey Mom actually would have loved to see the guy get to play a bit after the Caps were up 5 - 1, but either way it must have been the thrill of a lifetime for him. A huge HM high five to Brett and I hope to get the chance to see you in action sometime!

Check out his reaction here:

Spealing of Varlamov, Caps fans will get their first glimpse of the young Russian phenom in net as he will get the start against the Montreal Canadians at the hockey-crazed Bell Centre tonight. After standing on his head and various other phenomenal saves in the past 2 Caps' victories, Brent Johnson is a little dinged up with a sore hip (but can play if need be). He has been magnificent in his past few outings and I dare say that there should be no question who the #1 goaltender should be.

The Canadiens are dealing with their own rash of injuries. Among the down and out are goaltender Carey Price, captain Saku Koivu, Mike Komisarek, Christopher Higgins, Mathieu Dandenault and Georges Laraque (darn, no Brash/Laraque dance). Speaking of injuries, how great was it to have Feds and Green back last night - especially after a great Greener goal?

So tune in tonight at 7 p.m. as the two teams in red, white and blue meet in Montreal!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Senators Come Calling...Don't Forget Toys for Tots

Happy Holidays Caps fans! I'm sure many of you will be headed down to Chinatown tonight to watch the Caps take on the Ottawa Senators, who are coming off of a loss to the young Chicago Blackhawks. Lots of things going on tonight prior to face off, including Singles Night where you can mingle with other single Caps fans and try your luck at making a love connection through a speed-dating session at Bar Louie before the game. And don't forget to help the Caps make the holidays a little brighter for underpriviledged children by bringing a new, unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots campaign. Players' wives and girlfriends will be collecting toys and in addition to helping those less fortunate, the first 2,000 fans to donate will get a poster of the Caps version of Santa Claus, Alex Ovechkin!

Hockey Mom will probably miss most of tonight's contest as I will be imbibing in holiday cheer at a social engagement (and it's rare that I get to go anywhere that doesn't involve an ice rink of some sort), so I wish the team well against a Sens club ailing with previously weak power play efforts. So go out and rock the holiday (and most importantly Capitals) red tonight puck heads and don't forget to bring your toy donations for a great cause!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Caps Take on the Big Man and Boys from Beantown

As the "tower of power", Zdeno Chara, and the rest of the boys from Beantown came to pay their first visit of the year, you could feel the tension in the air amongst the Capitals' faithful. With a bench depleted by injuries, the Caps were facing a Bruins team that has been on an offensive tirade which has earned them the number one spot in the Eastern Conference.

I know that my face broke out in a big, wide, stupid smile when I saw the return of Alex Semin and Tom Poti to the Cap's bench - welcome back boys, we've sure missed ya!!! Nick Backstrom lit the lamp first for the Caps with a tip in of an Ovechkin shot. And Brent Johnson had some absolutely spectacular saves including a beauty of a stop against a Chuck Kobasew breakaway! Another HM high five to Alexandre Giroux, who netted his first NHL goal this season to take a 2-0 lead in the second. And how much fun was it to watch Ovie fly around trying to annihilate big man Chara? He took him down good a couple of times - I swear Alex is a bull in a china shop when he hits that ice!

Alas, Bruins tough guy and current poster boy, Milan Lucic got away from the red defense men and netted an easy goal on Johnson. So at the second intermission, HM found this great NHL piece on Alex Ovechkin's passion for working with kids, specifically kids from D.C.'s Fort Dupont Ice Rink.

The third period started off with a flurry of action as Alexandre Giroux was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway. Unfortunately, his attempt looked like it pinged the goal post. Three minutes left in the third brought a scary moment as Alex Semin gave away the puck in mid-ice but once again, Brent Johnson denied the Bruins. And to put a fork in it, who else but the
Great 8, made it a one-goal game by racing to an empty net and scoring for the lead.

What a huge win for the Caps and kudos to Johnny for holding the league's scoring leaders to one, yes make that ONE, goal! Next up - the Ottawa Senators on Friday.

And for all of you single sports fans out there, don't forget Friday night is Capitals Singles Night. For $35, you get a game ticket, a shot at speed-dating and a coupon for a free Chipotle Burrito. On another note, I think I got an early Christmas present as I turned on the t.v. after work and all of the suddent I get the NHL Network! So now am watching the Flames-Red Wings game. Life is good!

Karl Alzner No Potty-Mouth

Photo: NHL/Washington Capitals

Capitals' rookie d-man Karl Alzner is no potty-mouth and has never uttered the "F" word according to D.C. Sports Bog. When I read this, I had to post and send a big Hockey Mom high-five to Number 27, for the lack of profanity is rarely seen in professional hockey and I'm sure once that adrenaline starts flowing and bodies start banging, it's awfully hard to refrain from spouting expletives! Heck, it's hard for HM sometimes, whether watching the Caps or my boys' team, and I'm just a fan.

I wish I could say the same for one of my guys who recently got a 10-minute misconduct for uttering a profanity (that he's never heard in my house) to an opposing player - within earshot of the ref, of course. Very smart, huh? The coach, who also happens to be his dad, benched him for a game and he had to sit in jeans and his helmet and feel shame. Bet he won't do that again anytime soon - the wrath of Hockey Mom and Hockey Coach combined with the embarassment of being benched should be deterrent enough, one should hope!

Anyway, good for Karl. Here's wishing the team the best as they take on the big bad (and top of the Northeast) Boston Bruins. Rumor has it that Tom Poti and Alex Semin (please, please) MAY be back tonight but will be a game time decision.

Til the puck drops at 7 p.m......

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Canes Blow Over Caps 3 - 1

After a solid victory in Toronto over a storied Maple Leafs franchise, the Washington Capitals ventured down south to meet their division rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes. Unfortunately for the men in red, the list of players out due to injury increased by one, with the addition of Eric Fehr after last night's game. The Caps' roster currently has so many Hershey Bears' players on the list, you wonder if there's anyone left in Chocolate Land. That includes the AHL's leading scorer, Alexandre Giroux, who dressed for the Caps today in Raleigh.

Nick Backstrom lit the lamp for the Cap's only goal and Canes' goalie Michael Leighton had a stellar day shutting down Alex Ovechkin and the boys. Dressed in their not-so-hot black third jersey, the Hurricanes saw tallies from Ray Whitney (with 2) and Eric Staal. The victory puts the Hurricanes closer to catching up with the Caps for division lead, moving within 4 points.

So the team will have to regroup as they head home to face one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Division this week - the Boston Bruins. The boys from Beantown are stacked - and I mean stacked - with talent. Bruins' goalie Tim Thomas leads the League in GAA percentage and is already being touted as a favorite to win the Vezina trophy. Phil Kessel and Marc Savard have become scoring machines. And when Bruin's captain Zdeno Chara is on the ice, the Caps' better have their heads on a swivel - the guy is a monster at 6'9" (sans skates!) and boasts one of the hardest slapshots in the League. Another one to watch is new Bruins poster boy Milan Lucic, who is a powerful hitter and doesn't hesitate to drop the gloves if need be.

The contests between these two times got very chippy last season, with a fight breaking out after the very first face-off during one game. Hockey Mom hopes that the Caps can get some of the walking wounded back on the bench before Wednesday's game.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hockey Mom's Holiday Gift Guide (for the Female Caps Fan)

Tis the season and there are some great gift ideas out there for the female hockey fan on your list. Here are some of the fabulous gift ideas out there:

  • Jazz up her game day ensemble with a fun and flirty FanBangle handcrafted Swarovski crystal bracelet featuring her favorite NHL team logo in sterling silver.

  • You'd be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn't like chocolate! How about custom hockey chocolates from The Chocolate Vault?

  • If your hockey-loving gal wants another wardrobe option other than a jersey, Reebok's Washington Capitals split-neck tee is a comfy and cute alternative.

  • For a fun bunch of date nights and a true game-day experience, surprise her with a Capital's Holiday 3-Pack, which includes 2 tickets to 3 games, 2 Caps hats and an autographed player puck - all wrapped up in a neat holiday package!

  • Give the gift of reading and laughter with the book Hockey & High Heels.

  • Perfect for her playoff watching party - a 3-piece set of bright Washington Capitals bowls for entertaining.

  • For the hockey mom - a fun "Hockey Taxi" t-shirt to thank her for all the trips to and from the rink. ChalkTalkSports.com has this plus many other great gifts for hockey fans!

  • Help her display her team pride year after year with these festive Capitals' Christmas ornaments!

  • She'll rock the red and brave the chill all at once with a red jersey Capitals' fleece-lined scarf from NHL.com.

  • Hockey-themed stationary and notepads are always useful - PaperHockey.com has a great selection of hockey writing accents, bookmarks and more!

Just a few fun ideas to get you all in the holiday spirit - meanwhile, happy shopping, happy holidays and see you all at the Phone Booth!

Sean Gets Six...Games that Is

The verdict is in - superpest Sean Avery has been handed down a six-game suspension by the NHL for his ridiculous comments in Calgary earlier this week.

We'll have to wait and see what the Dallas Stars do with him. The team's AHL affiliate has already said "thanks but no thanks" to the possibility of Avery being sent down to the minors.

Now if the NHL's disciplinarians can only get on the same page regarding hits to the head...

Speaking of hits to the head, if you or your youth player wears a Reebok hockey helmet you may want to check this out and make sure your helmet stays on the noggin where it belongs!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ya Want Mustard Wit Dat? Caps Versus N.Y. Islanders

The New York Islanders are in town to take on the Capitals and that can only mean one thing - Dollar Dog Night! To commemorate Dollar Dog night, there was a hot-dog eating contest at Verizon Center, where several media representatives including pucksandbooks from On Frozen Blog took part in the festivities. Hope they all remembered to pack the Pepto Bismol!

As you all probably know, the team is still without several key players including Green, Semin, Fedorov, Poti, Clark, Erskine and Schultz. The Islanders are still missing their all-star goalie Rick DiPietro who is recovering from knee and hip injuries. Their backup net minder Joey MacDonald has filled in for the Isles quite nicely, earning one of the NHL's Stars of the Month for November (along with Ovie of course). The Islanders are also missing cute little Hilary Duff's boyfriend Mike Comrie.

Speaking of Ovechkin, he opened the scoring in the first period. Less than 2 minutes later, Kozlov (or was it Fleischmann?) lit the red light to make it 2-0. There were some scary moments when it looked the the Great 8 might have joined the list of the walking wounded, but thankfully (exhale) he returned to action with a vengeance. The Caps had some serious penalty minutes tonight with a slew of hooking infractions and a boarding call on Ovie late in the second. The Islander's Mark Streit netted one against Brent Johnson to make it 2-1. Then in a wacky series of events, the Isle's Chris Campoli shot from the blue line and thought he'd tied it up. But alas, the puck went off one of the linesman's legs and they called no-goal. Hey, there's only so much help you can get from the zebras and scoring is definitely not included.

A big HM high five to Keith Aucoin who was just called up from chocolate land and had a magnificent first two periods (including a sweet breakaway). New York's Trent Hunter went on to score in the second to make it a tie contest at 2-2.

Meanwhile, the Sean Avery saga continues and the NHL hasn't decided how long they are going to suspend that heathen. It sounds like his team mates on the Dallas Stars are thoroughly disgusted with both his on and off-ice antics, despite his written and issued by a publicist bogus apology. Note to self Sean, if you really want to issue a heartfelt apology -- try doing it in person next time. I have a feeling that despite whatever punishment is handed down by the League, Avery won't be on the Star's roster much longer. My question is - why would they give him such a large contract to begin with? His history of "crossing the line" is no secret to anyone who follows hockey! For crying out loud, they had to create the "Avery" rule last season in response to his unconventional and obnoxious agitation tactics against goalie Martin Brodeur.

With 13:10 left in the third, the "Donald" Brashear clipped one in with an assist from rookie Karl Alzner to reclaim the lead - way to keep at it! Later in the period, Eric Fehr scored on a power play with a hand from Brooks Laich to pad the Caps' lead 4 - 2. An Ovechkin to Backstrom pass resulted in an empty net goal to seal the deal 5 - 2. Aggravated by the lack of energy from the guys in the loss against Florida, Gabby apparently gave the team a very animated talking-to. Not sure what he said (nor that it could be repeated on this G-rated platform), but whatever it was he obviously got through to them.

Another fabulous home victory for the men in red and Brent Johnson's first against Islanders!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Coaching Shakeup in the Southeast

Looks like another coaching shakeup is going down in the Capitals' Southeast Division. The Canes have relieved head bench boss Peter Laviollette of his coaching duties - check it out on TSN here...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Mouth of The NHL Temporarily Silenced (Or Suspended Anyway)...

Hockey Mom just stumbled across this article on TSN's Web site that the NHL has suspended the biggest mouth in the League - former NY Ranger and current member of the Dallas Stars - Sean Avery. This guy has absolutely no filters whatsoever and in my opinion, is a detriment to the game with his total lack of respect for his fellow players and for the game itself. This particular suspension is a result of disparaging remarks he made in reference to his former girlfriend (Elisha Cuthbert) dating Calgary Flames d-man Dion Phanuef.

Already facing the wrath of the Flames for obnoxious digs he made earlier in the season about team captain Jarome Iginla, Avery made these comments this morning in Calgary:

"I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada," Avery said on camera this morning in Calgary. "I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight."

Personally, HM thinks they should have let him play. It would have made for a pretty intense game to watch Dion Phanuef and pals get a piece of that big-mouth.

Nice job, Avery. Meanwhile, some great news from Caps Land! Fans can't get enough of superstar Alex Ovechkin and today it was announced that he is launching a new Web site!

Here are details from the press release:

WASHINGTON, DC - NHL Superstar and reigning league MVP, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is pleased to announce the launch of his new official website – http://www.alexovechkin8.com/. The site will serve as the ultimate resource for Ovechkin fans
worldwide, as his global fan base continues to expand.

The site features Alex’s official news and announcements along with exclusive video highlights and an online store. Fans can also find out more about Alex’s “Crazy 8’s” community initiatives and upcoming online promotions via Ovi Nation, a dedicated social network channel scheduled to launch in conjunction with the NHL All Star activities in January 2009.

As part of the launch, Ovechkin has teamed up with IceRok Jewelry to produce a limited edition ‘Great 8’ silver chain and pendant necklace. The sterling silver necklace is the very same necklace Alex wears every time he steps on the ice. This limited time offer is only available at AlexOvechkin8.com and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Crazy 8’s program supporting underprivileged youth in the Washington DC and Moscow areas.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Stars Keep Shining on Ovie

A huge Hockey Mom toast to the Great Eight Alex Ovechkin, who was just named the NHL's first star for November. Not a bad way to kick off the holiday season!

Here's more from the NHL's press release:

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 25 points in November, has been named the league’s First Star of the Month, the NHL announced today. Ovechkin is the second consecutive Capital to earn the league’s top monthly honor, as Alexander Semin was the First Star in October.

Ovechkin’s 25 points in 14 games included 11 goals and a +9 rating as he recorded points in 11 of 14 games and goals in nine of 14. Before Saturday Ovechkin recorded points in 10 straight games with 22 points (11g-11a) in that time, which was the longest active streak in the league.

Ovechkin has now won the NHL’s Player of the Month or First Star of the Month four times (Jan. 2006, Jan. 2008, March 2008 and Nov. 2008).

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin and New York Islanders goaltender Joey MacDonald were the NHL’s second and third stars for the month of November, respectively.

I have a feeling that AO is not going to call his fellow countryman Geno Malkin to congratulate him on his star anytime soon! Let's just hope that the Caps can get our other NHL star-earner Alex Semin back in the line up this week!