Thursday, March 5, 2009

Caps Aim to Rake Away the Leafs: HM in the Press Box

As the Toronto Maple Leafs pay a visit to Verizon Center this evening, they've gained some talent and lost some (Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore along with former Capitals Olie Kolzig and Jamie Heward as a result of the Tampa Bay Lightning's salary dump) from yesterday's trading activity. The Leafs were also without their star d-man Tomas Kaberle.

But the big news tonight is the absence of Alex Ovechkin, who is still feeling the stinging effects of a slapper off his foot. So coming off a string of yucky losses to lesser S.E. Conference teams, the rest of the boys are going to have to step up and step up big....

And even though her boy wasn't on the ice tonight, Ovi's Hockey Mom was in the house cheering the rest of the guys on!

Better health news for Jose Theodore, who seems to have made a speedy recovery from the flu or whatever was ailing him earlier this week and is minding the Caps' net. On the opposing end, the Toronto goal is being guarded by Martin Gerber in his first outing representing Leaf Nation. Gerber was also dealt yesterday by his former team, the Ottawa Senators.

The dancing started pretty early on in this one as Matt Bradley traded fists with Brad Ondrus and both took a seat in the sin bin. While we're on the subject of fighting, the Philadelphia Flyers just got a little more thugnasty as they added more fist factor (as if they needed it) to the roster by acquiring tough guy Daniel Carcillo from the Phoenix Coyotes. Donald Brashear is going to feel like he's back at the prom the next time the two clubs meet with Carcillo and Riley Cote on his dance card! And more former Flyers gone wild - Steve Downie just got a 20 game suspension for deliberately hitting a referee. Very nice - maybe it's Downie's turn to go to Russia's KHL with all the other former NHLers who have anger management issues...just a thought.

It looked like the Leafs got on the board first but HM threw the flag down before the men in stripes made the call. It was plain as day that Toronto players interfered with Theo's ability to deflect the puck as they were laying on top of him. So Cap's fans were treated to some sweet words from the officiating crew - No Goal Toronto! The Capitals were not able to score on the power play that ended the first period with goose eggs for both teams.

I was headed back to my seat during the break and got caught in an Ovi traffic jam as Alex emerged from one of the broadcast booths and was swarmed by reporters. The start of the second period wasn't very kind to the Leaf's Jeff Finger who took a puck to the face - insert Hockey Mom public service announcement for wearing a visor here.

Just as I was going to say the second period was getting a little (yawn) boring - Jose Theodore made a phenomenal stop on a Leaf's power play breakaway attempt by Mikhail Grabovski. But overall, the boys still seem to lack the luster we've become accustomed to seeing. And with Cindy the Diving Captain Crosby and his retooled Penguins coming to town on Sunday, the Caps better bring it!

The start of the third period saw 4 on 4 hockey and a brief Toronto power play as Alex Semin took a seat for "surprise" - high sticking. Mike Green had a nice defensive shift and the boys were successful in staving the Leafs off this time.

Alas, the Leafs lit the lamp first on a goal by Lee Stempniak as Michael Nylander (who's been scratched from the line up for the past few games - maybe there's a reason?) seemed to lose the puck in his skates right in front of Theo's crease. Urrgh!

Mere minutes later, the Maple Leafs' Pavel Kubina's goal gave the northern visitors a 2-point lead. Double urggh! With the shots at 8:49 favoring the Caps 35 - 23, the boys can't seem to get on the board. Even Ovi's mom looked flabbergasted...

Alex Semin netted one in the waning seconds to get the boys back in but it was not enough.

Final score: Caps 1 - Leafs 2

The good news is that during the post-game press conference, Coach Boudreau said that he felt it's not panic time and that he feels that AO should be back against Crosby and pals for Sunday. He also noted the string of losses that the Detroit Red Wings experienced last season (though the Wings had a solid lead in the standings) and that every high-ranked team goes through this at some point. That said, he did not make excuses for tonight's loss even though he felt the overall effort was better than in games past and we fans have to hope that the guys return to their game on Sunday....

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