Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Hart for Ovie?

Following the euphoria of last night's wonderful win, more good news for the Washington Capitals and their shining star, Alex Ovechkin. The winner of almost every NHL award known to mankind last season, Ovie recieved his second consecutive nod for the Hart Trophy, awarded to a team's most valuable player. Also named as a finalist: Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who'll play a leading role in this Saturday's Game 1 showdown against the arch rival Pens.

From the team press release:

Alex Ovechkin Named a Finalist for Hart Trophy
Capitals left wing could be first back-to-back winner in more than a decade

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Hockey League announced today that Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin is one of three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is presented annually to the player judged most valuable to his team. Ovechkin, who captured the Hart in 2007-08, joins fellow Russians Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit) and Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) as the three finalists.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Hart Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters announced as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards that will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and on CBC in Canada. The Capitals are assured of at least two candidates for honors at the show, as Mike Green is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

Ovechkin could become the first player to win back-to-back Hart Trophies since Dominik Hasek in 1996-97 and ’97-98. The last non-goaltender to win consecutive Hart Trophies was Wayne Gretzky, who won eight in a row from 1980-87.

“It means a lot to me to be up for this award,” Ovechkin said. “I always want to be the best, so this is a great honor. It’s special, too, with three Russians nominated. It is a great thing for our country and our sport.”

Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (56), earning the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the second consecutive season. He also led the league in points per game (1.39), shots (528) and power-play points (46). His 110 points in 79 games ranked second in the league, and his goal total was 10 more than any other player. He finished the season recording eight more points than any other player after the NHL All-Star Game (51; Malkin and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh were second with 43 each).

Ovechkin recorded his 200th career goal, 200th career assist and 400th career point during 2008-09, as he led Washington to a second consecutive Southeast Division title. He joined Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players to record 200 goals and 200 assists in their first four NHL seasons.

Ovechkin won the “Espo Award” as the most valuable player in the league from Phil Esposito on NHL Home Ice. He won the Kharlamov Trophy as the top Russian player in the league for the fourth year in a row and was named the Best Player and Most Valuable Player by The Hockey News. Ovechkin was named to his third straight NHL All-Star Game and won the Breakaway Challenge in the SuperSkills competition. He was the NHL’s First Star of the month in November and the Third Star in December.

Alex Ovechkin

Left wing

Ht.: 6’2” Wt.: 225 Shoots: Right

Born: Sept. 17, 1985 (Moscow, Russia)

Drafted: Washington’s first-round choice, first overall, in the 2004 Entry Draft

Capitals Take Game Seven and Advance!

The moment was finally here – a monumental Game 7 and it was expected that both teams would come out hard to fight to the end. Especially the Blueshirts, trying to recover from "water bottlegate" and two stinky performances from Henrik Lundqvist.

First of all a huge welcome back to captain Chris Clark – who celebrated his return with some glass-rattling hits on several Blueshirts in the opening period.

We also saw two amazing stops by Varlamov in the first 4 minutes, including one to the gut of Varly. Nik Antropov slid in the first goal as Sean Avery screened Varly (first period). Ten minutes into first – still no shots on goal by the boys. Antropov took a high stick and Caps were not able to convert on power play. Greener tripped up one of the talented Staal brothers (Marc) and went to 4 on 4. But the Rangers’ power play didn’t pan out. Finally, Alex Semin’s shot went off Callahan’s twig and the men in red finally got on the board late in the first (luck be damned)!

First period saw ridiculous delay with a glass problem. Overall the Caps were doing a terrible job of getting the puck out of their offensive zone. The Rangers looked much lighter on their feet while the Caps seemed to grip their sticks tight. And Hockey Mom was clenching her jaw tight as we all feared a repeat of last year’s Game 7.

In the second period, Kozlov thought he caught the King out of his crease but Henrik tapped it away with a tip of his glove in a stellar save. Ovie was on the ice way too long and while trying to dump the puck, turned it over to the Rangers. Thankfully his pals, particularly David Steckel, dug it out of the Caps’ zone. Once again the stripes had their whistles in their windpipes as Zherdev got away with a blatant trip on Mike Green, who went flying into the boards.

Zherdev certainly seemed to wake up from his hibernation for Game 7. Unfortunately, for the home team, the same could not be said for the Caps’ Viktor Kozlov, who suffered some serious lapses in judgment with some Squirt hockey giveaways. For most of the first two periods, it seemed like our boys just sat around and watched like the Rangers were on a flipping power play! Lots of careless passing going on as well…going into the locker room at the end of the second, the score was still tied at one apiece. Did anyone else feel like this was déjà vu all over again for the first 40 minutes?

But finally in the final period, the Caps we know and love showed up to play! The boys showed a lot more zip in their step, ramped up the hits and saw several more scoring opportunities, including a beauty from Ovie that was ultimately stumped by Lundqvist. The Caps tightened up and did an outstanding job of holding the Rags to only one shot on goal in the final period.

Then with less than five minutes left in the third, the trusty 39-year old veteran Sergei Fedorov showed us his Stanley Cup form and scored the most magnificent game winner – rocking the Phone Booth to its core and sending the whiny Ranger bed wetters home! And hopefully Feds will buy the young Russian Simeon Varlamov his first legal vodka shot on his 21st birthday – as our rookie net minder had another phenomenal game.

So in addition to moving on the second round, the Caps made history tonight having never won a Game 7 at the Phone Booth. My fortune cookie from lunch today said: “Soon, you will be sitting on top of the world” and my lucky number was 28. Yes indeed, April 28 will be one to remember for a not-so-pretty win but a win nonetheless! HM and my fellow Caps fans (as well as the entire Caps organization) want to revel in this great feeling for now and get ready for Sidney and pals come Saturday! Way to go boys….

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another Inspirational Read to Kill the Time....

Have I mentioned before that I love The Hockey News' Ken Campbell? Nine times out of ten, this guy is dead on - I know the Caps faithful out there are keeping their fingers crossed that he is right yet again with this opinion.

Mr. Campbell, I just renewed my subscription - the check is on its way! This has got to be the longest four hours I've waited in ages (no pun intended) - let's do this already!

Odds and Ends as the Wait Begins....

As we wait with baited breath for tonight's Game 7, here are some other tidbits from around the rinks:

  • The President's Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks won't be advancing to the next round after getting knocked out by the Anaheim Ducks, despite amassing a whopping 117 points and 53 wins on the season - yowzah!

  • Brashear's frequent dance partner Georges Laraque of the Montreal Canadiens has his own opinion of the hit that drew Brash a 5-game suspension in the NHL's effort to make him the playoff poster boy for hits to the head.

  • Kudos the old guy Nikolai Khabibulin for stopping 43 shots to help the Chicago Blackhawks win the team's first NHL playoff series in 13 years.

Only ten hours til the first face-off...HM lets out a huge sigh as her stomach continues to churn with nerves....Let's go CAPS!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brashear Gets Six

Another example of the NHL's inconsistent disciplinary procedures, Donald Brashear was dealt a six-game suspension for his hit on Blair Betts (who has a concussion and broken orbital bone) and the pre-game shove on fellow enforcer Colton Orr.

Believe me, I completely get the efforts to crack down on hits to the head. And the one to Betts was forceful, out-of-the-blue and very ill-timed on Brash's part. Memo to the guys in stripes: let's just make sure we call all the major infractions tomorrow, huh? Because I have a feeling that this just turned uglier than it already is....

Happy Birthday Varly!

Hockey Mom joins all the great fans in Capsland in wishing Simeon Varlamov a happy 21st birthday! Hard to believe that this kid, who's been a rock in the net in these intense playoffs is only 21 - and he's only going to get better in time like a fine wine. Speaking of wine, hope the boys take him out for a legal adult beverage - after Game 7, of course!

Kudos to Tom Poti for his huge game yesterday in his old stomping grounds! Also to Mike Green with his first playoff goal and to Milan "Juice" Jurcina for getting his team on the board first, which has been crucial in this series!

Meanwhile, we wait to see if the "Donald" receives any disciplinary action for his hit on Blair Betts and the pre-game bump on Rangers' enforcer Colton Orr. From my standpoint watching the game at the ice rink, I couldn't see well enough to make my own decisive call on whether or not the hit on Betts was clean.

Then the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky, who's been trying to stir things up throughout the series, claims to have been "bitten" by Shaone Morrison. Now Moe is a tough d-man but he's no Jarko Ruutu and it's interesting how that little tidbit of information comes out after all the players had left MSG. Lots of odds and ends to tie up after yesterday's contest!

Speaking of Jarko Ruutu, there's an interesting article that he penned for The Hockey News on playing the role of agitator, especially during the playoffs. So if you want a glimpse of what's been going on in Sean Avery's warped mind during this series, check it out. In other worthwhile reading, one of HM's favorite sportswriters, Sally Jenkins, has a great piece in today's Washington Post about the Rangers' whining and complaining about the Capitals' behavior in the playoffs. A bit like the pot calling the kettle black, eh?

A huge Game 7 awaits us all tomorrow - I expect a very frustrated Rangers club to come out swinging. While we're on that subject, check out last night's swinging action in the Hurricane's 4-0 thrashing of the New Jersey Devils:

More from Hockey Mom later - in the meantime, hope you all are rocking the red!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where's the Boss?

Ranger's bench boss John Tortorella won't be anywhere near the bench in today's showdown Game 6 at Madison Square Garden, as the NHL suspended him for his part in the fan altercation that took place Friday night at Verizon.

From the NHL's discipline czar Colin Campbell:

"While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot -- and will not -- tolerate any physical contact with fans. We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers' bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center.

That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage."

Sounds like Torts may need to reserve a vacation spot at the behavioral facility attended by his benched agitator, Sean Avery. How ironic to preach control and discipline to your players and turn around and lose your mind in front of the entire hockey world...

So assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld will take the lead for the Rangers in this crucial Game 6 in front of a tough home crowd. We'll see how this all affects the Blueshirts, who saw a lackadaisical effort from their stars on Friday night, giving the Capitals the win and the momentum.

Hockey Mom will be at one boys' house game with my butt planted in front of the t.v. - sorry Jake, it's the playoffs! I'm rocking my red today from my head to my red toes and flying my Capitals "pizza man" car flag with pride - let's bring it back to Verizon boys!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Game 5: Caps Shut Out Blueshirts

As I walked into the Verizon Center for tonight's do or die contest (after I almost had to hip-check some dork in an Avery jersey who was taking his Sunday stroll in addition to wearing an Avery jersey), I felt the kind of nerves you got when you went on your first date back in high school!

We all know what had to be done tonight - and the boys did it! The last team to come back from 3-1 to win a series was 2004, when Montreal beat Boston in seven games.

Noticeably absent from Ranger warm ups was the uber-pest himself, Sean Avery. And present for the warm ups was Caps' gritty captain Chris Clark - could this be the night we see him back in action? Once I got my roster in the press box, the answer was on the sheet: no Avery, no Clark. From where I sit, Torts had no choice but to bench the goon but we'll miss his penalty gifts!

Caps saw their first power play on a hooking call on Scottie Gomez merely 2 minutes in. Shortly thereafter, Brian Pothier went to the box after tripping Nik Antropov. And the Caps went on to do what they needed to when Matt Bradley broke free and roofed one over King Henrik - short-handed! This place went wild. The last Capital to score a shorty in a playoff game was Steve Konowalchuk on 4/19/2000 in a 3-2 win against the hated Penguins!

The Rangers then took a too many men on the ice call with about ten minutes left and the home team was on yet another power play. And lo and behold Matt Bradley is ON FIRE - roofing ANOTHER ONE! Rock on with your bad self! And tonight marked Bradley's first ever playoff goal (make that 2 goals in 2 shots)! Varly made an unbelievable save on Brandon Dubinsky late in third throwing his body outside the right side of the net.
The crowd went nutso after that save and then again after they showed Uncle Ted rocking out with "more cowbell" on the jumbotron! And another interesting note, the Caps' penalty killers held the Rangers to no shots on goal in their first two power plays. The boys went into the locker room at the end of the first with a 2-0 lead.

At 15:03 into the second period, Alex Semin had the deke of the week on Henrik Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the playoffs and the Cap's third goal of the night which set off loud roars of "Henrik Henrik" from the rowdy crowd. Varlamov's instincts and quick glove hand held the Rags scoreless through the second. With less than 20 seconds left in the second period, Alex the Great made a play we'll be seeing on every sports network highlight reel this side of the Atlantic as he faked out two Rangers and scored one on
Lundqvist. Wanna see it again?

End of the second: Caps 4 - Rangers 0.

The King was dethroned going into the third period after allowing 4 goals on 14 shots, replaced by Rangers' back up netminder Stephen Valiquette. Things got heated after a Caps' attempt on Valiquette resulted in a scrum and all the Rangers piled on top of the Caps and their goalie. Blueshirt Brandon Dubinsky got real brave and was yapping at the Donald. Brashear took a 10-minute misconduct for his part while Dubinsky got a 2-minute trip to the sin bin.

Hockey Mom is going to take a sidebar here and give a bit of a lecture. During the third period someone among the Caps faithful took it upon themselves to throw a beer (or something) on Rangers' coach John Tortorella. Seriously? Act like you've been out before - we rag on the Flyers and Rangers fans for doing the very same thing. If you want to act like that outside the arena that's your business but there's no need for that kind of behavior. How would we feel if Rangers' fans did that to Gabby? Not cool and I'm sure that Ted Leonsis will have something to say about it as well. Now Torts lost his cool as well and retaliated by throwing a water bottle into the stands and waving a hockey stick, actions which will probably be reviewed by the NHL. Basically the entire Rangers club lost their cool towards the end, even without their instigator in the lineup.

So anyhoo, that's my manners lesson for today for what it's worth - now back to the game. After the scrum with Brash, Dubinsky seemed to get frustrated and took a roughing call with about 7 minutes left. The Caps had yet another power play but were unable to convert. The Rangers' Colton Orr and Aaron Voros continued to unravel as Orr took a 10-minute misconduct with 4 minutes to go and Voros took 2 penalties as well.

In the end, the Caps did everything they needed to do to ensure a Game 6 - fabulous effort all around!

In the post-game press conference, Gabby praised the efforts of Matt Bradley (calling him an unsung hero and commenting on his hard work) and young goalie Varlamov, in addition to AO of course, joking that he "might play Alex another shift come Sunday." He also reiterated the fact that the Rangers will be ready for Game 6, noting that when he saw the first Bradley goal go in his thoughts were "Uh oh, he's (Lundvquist) gonna be great on Sunday."

So a huge Hockey Mom high five to the boys for bringing it all tonight!MSG is gonna be wild tomorrow - let's see some more CAPITALS hockey!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sour Grapes Gets it Right...

For all the ridiculous blather from Don Cherry regarding Alex Ovechkin and his unconventional celebrations the past month or two, Hockey Mom is proud to report that I am finally on the same page as the old guy when it comes to Sean Avery. Plus I wonder if I can get slipcovers for my sofa made from his jacket material - groovy Grapes!

Here's Sir Cherry after last night's Boston Bruins' sweep of the Canadiens:

HM must have been busy banging my Pepperidge Farm bread thunderstix together as I totally missed that imbecile putting his stick in Ovie's throat - are you kidding me? The thing about Avery is that even the Caps sic Brash or someone else on him tomorrow night, he will cave and refuse to fight. That's part of his schtick. I'm thinking Torts should bench him but then we wouldn't have anyone to take idiotic penalties and give the Caps more scoring opportunities so hope to see him at the end of the bench tomorrow!

Green Gets Norris Nod

Cap's defenseman Mike Green has been nominated for the NHL's Norris Trophy along with the Bruin's Zdeno Chara and Red Wing's Nick Lidstrom.

Congrats to Green and let's hope he celebrates by knocking Sean Avery on his keister tomorrow night!

From the team's press release:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Hockey League announced today that Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green is one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy, which is presented annually to the top defenseman in the league. Green joins Boston’s Zdeno Chara and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom as the three finalists.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association submitted ballots for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters announced as finalists. The winner will be announced Thursday, June 18, during the 2009 NHL Awards Television Special, which will be broadcast live throughout the United States on VERSUS and in Canada on CBC from inside the Pearl Concert Theater in the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas.

Green could become the second Capital to win the Norris trophy and first since Rod Langway won the award in back-to-back years (1982-83, 1983-84). Green’s eight-game goal streak (Jan. 27 to Feb. 14) set a NHL record for a defenseman and matched the longest streak in the NHL since 1997-98 (Teemu Selanne, 11 games). The Calgary, Alberta, native had eight more goals and nine more points than any other defenseman despite missing 14 games due to injury, finishing with 31 goals and 73 points. The Capitals were 20-4-2 when he scored a goal and 33-5-4 when he registered a point.

At 23, Green became the youngest defenseman with 30 goals since Paul Coffey in 1983-84 and had the most goals by an NHL defenseman since former Capitals Kevin Hatcher had 34 in 1992-93. He was just the seventh defenseman in NHL history to score 30 goals in a season and the first to do it while playing fewer than 70 games. He led all defenseman and ranked seventh in the NHL (minimum 20 game played) with 1.07 points per game. His 73 points were the most points by a defenseman in the NHL since 2005-06 (Nicklas Lidstrom, 80).

Green’s 18 power-play goals ranked fourth in the league and set a Capitals record for power-play goals by a defenseman (one shy of the NHL record). Green finished second on the team and tied for fifth among NHL defensemen with a +24 rating.

Green won the “Espo Award” as the best defenseman in the league from Phil Esposito on NHL Home Ice. He was the NHL’s Second Star for the month of February after scoring 20 points in 13 games.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game 4: Caps Fall to Rangers 2-1

As I got ready to settle down (if that's possible) for tonight's Game 4, I realized I could use the two Pepperidge Farm frozen garlic breads I bought on the way home to make some thunderstix of my own to cheer on the Caps. As long as they stay frozen, they're pretty loud - way cooler than those Star Wars things they gave to the Rangers fans the other night (which ended up on the ice anyway).

In all seriousness, I'm sure I'm one of many Caps faithful who has been on edge all day in anticipation of this game to see if the boys come out with the fire and fight they displayed in Monday night's huge win. The Rangers (and their loud fans) were jazzed and seemed to have the momentum through the first. Paul Bunyan, make that Paul Mara, got on the board first. The Blueshirts held the visitors without a shot well into the first period.

Ranger's ailing captain Chris Drury took advantage of a loose puck that Varlamov was unable to catch, and netted one to give his team a 2-0 advantage. The Caps had 19 shots on goal to the Rangers' 5 but were unable to get one through Henrik Lundqvist, who made the stellar stops required, including a flash glove save on a rocket from Alex Semin. The Caps went into the locker room after the second, still down by two goals.

The Caps had to come out swinging and stronger than ever in the final period. At 2:13 into the third period, Alex Ovechkin snuck past D-man Derek Morris and sniped one past King Henrik, who looked like he had absolutely no idea where the puck went. With a littler over nine minutes left and the Caps only trailing by a goal, Sean Avery got Milan Jurcina right in the schnozz with his grimy fist, drawing blood along with a penalty for roughing. In the resulting power play, both AO and Feds had strong chances but both clanked right off the goal posts. At the end of the power play, the refs who swallowed the whistles again, missed a Rangers cross-check but nailed Semin for a trip. Big John Erskine did his part on the critical PK and the Rangers were held at bay.

Avery took another idiotic penalty in the last minutes of the third by high-sticking Brian Pothier. The Rangers, who boast one of the best PKs in the league, killed another one for their problem child team mate. The final seconds were a mad frenzy of activity as the Caps fought to get one on the boards with an extra man and an empty net. But alas, Lundvquist had another magnificent performance, much to the dismay of the Capitals and the fans that love them.

Now down 3 games to 1, the Caps come home on Friday to fight for their playoff survival. After watching the better team (the Caps, of course) walk away from such a battle with a loss, my head is pounding. I think I'll go eat my thunderstix...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Caps Shine in Broadway Come Back

After two disappointing losses in the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, looks like the Capitals finally got the memo. You know the one - the one that said to beat the Rangers you have to stop taking fancy shots from the perimeter, you keep your s%$# together when Sean Avery gets in your grill, and you do whatever it takes to protect your house. In other words, play like a team, crash the net and keep your cool. And that they did, bringing a breath of new life to the Caps' nervous faithful and silencing the loud MSG crowd equipped with "light sabre" glow-in-the-dark thunder sticks.

Simeon Varlamov was absolutely outstanding - earning a shut out as a rookie 20-year old in the Stanley Cup playoffs is no small feat. Especially when you have Sean Avery's derriere in your face all night! Varly made a stellar 33 saves as the Rangers laid the big goose egg!

The SOB line (Semin, Ovechkin, Backstrom) lit the lamp twice in the first period courtesy of shots by Alex Semin. Ovie added his contribution on the defensive side as well, blocking a breakaway attempt by Lauri Korpikoski and laying his signature glass-rattling hits. It was great to see big Brash back in the line up as well, boosting up the tough factor. And how hard do you think it was for John Erskine to keep his cool after getting cross-checked by Avery? Hockey Mom cheered with glee after #16 finally got tossed for his cheap shot on Varlamov in the final minutes of the game. Caps Chick says it best with these great photo captions that had me laughing my head off!

"Crash the net" - Brooks Laich heard the message loud and clear, getting the puck in the paint with a goal in the second period to make it 3-0 Caps. Tom Poti was the finisher with the last goal in the third as the disgusted Rangers fans fled MSG while throwing crap on the ice (very nice) before leaving the building.

FINAL: Caps 4 - Rangers 0

Tonight we saw the Capitals team we've been watching all season - the guys are back in this thing and HM is breathing a little easier. A fabulous effort all around - let's do it again on Wednesday....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Game Two: Can the Kid Get it Done?

So as I hustled my way up to the Verizon Center Press Box this afternoon, I found my fellow bloggers and media types abuzz. Bruce Boudreau has surprised the masses and decided to go with rookie Simeon Varlamov in this must-win games against the rival Rangers (who have captain Chris Drury back on the ice). Um, wow - that's all I can muster for now but let's see what the kid can do. My thoughts are that the pressure may not get into his head as much; he's a pretty steely kid.

When Varly's rock n'roll head shot appeared on the jumbotron, the thousands of Caps faithful went wild! The hitting in the first period was merciless with AO trying to annihilate anyone who got in his path, especially Sean Avery (who put on a mini diving show). The Blueshirts got on the board first courtesy of Ryan Callahan. The minute we thought Alex Semin had been rehabbed of his stick infraction issue, he took a hooking penalty but the boys were able to extinguish the Rangers' power play unit quite nicely. The Caps had a few nice attempts, including a breakaway pass from AO to big Viktor Kozlov, who shot the puck way too wide. Mayhem ensued at the end of the first as Kozzie took a cross-checking call and then his mates Tom Poti and John Erskine tangled with Sean Avery (who else?) and his bud Nik Antropov. So going into the locker room at the end of the first, the Rags held a 1-0 lead.

It seems that the saying that the "refs swallow their whistles" during the playoffs is 100 percent true, especially when it came to the Rangers. Apparently John Tortorella's whine fest after Game 1 pulled some of the officials' heart strings as the Rangers saw four power plays by the middle of the second period. Finally, with 3:43 left in the second the refs pulled their whistles out of their esophagus and the men in red got a power play. After failing to convert on the PP opportunity, the Caps got another break as Nik Antropov made a visit to the sin bin on a hooking call. At the end of the second period, the score was still 1-0.

The third period saw some sloppy passes from the Caps' 'D' but Varlamov had a few stellar stops in net. The boys got yet another opportunity when Scott Gomez took a tripping call and Ovie missed a tip in goal by mere inches. Minutes later Alex Semin took exception at a check from Ryan Callahan and went in the box for roughing. In the end, the final score stood at 1-0 Rangers. And the kid wasn't able to get it done, but it wasn't for lack of trying after stopping 23 shots. He did a great job under the bright lights on the playoff stage.

That pretty much wrapped it up on a disappointing loss for the Caps, who seemed to be pretty flat for most of the game. Now they have to go into a hostile Madison Square Garden and try to make the biggest comeback since last season's sensational run. But it seems that the boys are lacking the tenacity they displayed in last year's series. And it's been said over and over in the last week, but the only way to beat Henrik Lundqvist is to create pure havoc in front of the net. Maybe it's time to get Brashear back in there?

Hopefully the boys can rally back. Yes, it has been done before - there are lots of stats and percentages floating around on teams who've done it. But at this point, all that matters is how much the Caps want to fight for it and doing whatever it takes to beat the Blueshirts at their game. HM for one is not ready to throw in the towel by any means....

Friday, April 17, 2009

It's Good to be Ovie!

Courtesy of the fun folks over at ESPN, here's a preview of their E:60 show airing next Tuesday which will spotlight the Great Eight:

E:60 Alex Ovechkin Preview from ESPN Communications on Vimeo.

Yep - it's pretty good to be Ovie! Let's hope Alex and friends light it up with a vengeance tomorrow in Game Two. Some odds and ends on tomorrow's contest: Jeff Schultz is "out with an injury" - hmmmm; Rangers' captain Chris Drury skated with the team today having been out with an undisclosed injury; and Gabby is keeping mum on who will get the job in goal tomorrow. HM thinks you gotta go with with Theo - he's made some major comebacks before with his former Montreal and Colorado clubs in the playoffs. And goodness knows, all the flak he's catching should at least fire him up if nothing else!

I love the comments on the various blog message boards insinuating that the Caps should have kept Christobal Huet. Two items of note to those naysayers:

1) Huet isnt' even starting in the playoffs for the Blackhawks, having lost out to the "old guy" Nikolai Khabibulin and 2) Huet didn't want to stay here.

So c'mon guys, get your game faces and focus on and plant your butts in front of 'King Henrik's' house tomorrow!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Playoff Schtuff..

So the buzz has already started about whether or not Gabby will give Simeon Varlamov the nod in goal for Saturday's Game Two after Theo's not-so-spectacular performance last night. Me thinks he may want to put Brian Pothier in place of Jeff Schultz as well as long as we're talking about mixing things up a little. Bruce Boudreau loves his film (as we learned during his Hockey & High Heels session) and you'd better believe he'll be reviewing every play today to see where the boys needed to patch up those holes - too bad he can't do anything about the officiating but such is life...

In other playoff goings-on, the first game of the Battle of Pennsylvania (or as I'm dubbing it: The Battle for the Lesser of Two Evils) went to the Pittsburgh Penguins who saw scoring from both Cindy Crosby and Hart winner Evgeni Malkin. It certainly did not help the hated rough and tumble Flyers that Scott Hartnell spent a total of 16 minutes in the sin bin (Hockey Mom feins shock and surprise!) - for which he was called out after the game by Coach John Stevens. It was a big win for the Pens, who rolled over the visitors with a final score of 4-1.

Out west, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin of the fabulous Sedin twins made his contribution to the team with a goal against St. Louis Blues' net minder Chris Mason. The Sedins are gunning for a new contract (and wherever they end up, it's both of them or nothing; as a mom of twins, HM thinks that's amazing that after all these years they don't want to be split up). Whoever gets the Dynamic Duo however, will end up taking a pretty big hit against their salary cap. But for now, the Canucks went on to win Game One by a score of 2-1.

As we wait eagerly for Game Two on Saturday, Caps fans mark your calendars for some good reality t.v. on April 21. ESPN sent me a press release yesterday on an upcoming feature spotlighting Alex Ovechkin on their E:60 program:

April 15, 2009

NHL Star Alexander Ovechkin To Be Profiled on ESPN’s E:60

ESPN's award-winning primetime newsmagazine E:60 will profile National Hockey League star Alexander Ovechkin in the episode airing Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. ET. The program, which launched in October 2007, combines investigative reporting, in-depth profiles of intriguing sports personalities and features on emerging star athletes. These stories are presented in a fresh and innovative format that incorporates producer/correspondent meetings.

Ovechkin is electrifying, eccentric and a highlight reel waiting to explode. The reigning MVP, Ovechkin has taken the NHL by storm since bursting onto the scene in 2005. With his hot shot and even hotter persona, the Washington Capitals left winger is already being mentioned as a potential all-time great player.

E:60’s Rachel Nichols has an all access pass inside the life of this megawatt hockey god who is equal parts everyman, equal parts rock star. In this revealing portrait, viewers see what makes Ovie run 100 miles per hour on and off the ice: his unabashed joy and enthusiasm, his love of fast cars, his simmering rivalry with the other name on the NHL’s marquee, Sidney Crosby, his hell bent for leather style of play that leaves defensemen swiveling their heads, and his burning desire to turn the nation’s capital into a hockey mad city.

The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, NBA star LeBron James, Caps owner Ted Leonsis and iconic hockey commentator Don Cherry are among the voices in the feature.

Can't wait to hear Sour Grapes Cherry weigh in...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Caps Come Close But No Dice in Game One

The Washington Capitals came out swinging tonight in Game One against the New York Rangers, exhibiting the energy and physicality that was missing the last few weeks of the regular season. It was great to see Boyd Gordon and Tom Poti back on the bench, though Brash was a healthy scratch. Captain Chris Clark may return before series end as well.

Though both teams remained scoreless throughout the first period, the Caps played hard and fast, leading the Rags in both shots on goal and hits (including a wizbanger of a hit from Professor Matt Bradley who gave one of the blueshirts his own version of a physics lesson)! Defensively, the boys tightened it up as well in the first.

But come the second period, things started getting really interesting. The men in red got on the board first, with a goal from Ovie that was eventually credited to Tomas Fleischmann. But less than a minute later, the Caps' defense allowed an unassisted goal from the Ranger's Scott Gomez. And of course Sean Avery was up to his old tricks which included slewfooting Mike Green and cross-checking Jose Theodore (after the whistle no less).

I have to add a sidebar on Avery here. HM has long been an admirer of sportswriter Sally Jenkins and she summarized the "Avery factor" perfectly in today's Washington Post. And good on the home team for not playing into Avery's head games and taking foolish retaliation penalties. But some of the officiating was seriously questionable - I thought Don Koharski retired last week?

The Blueshirt's trade aquisition Nik Antropov got on the board next for the visitors, followed by former Vancouver Canuck (and Sedin twins' team mate) Markus Nasland.

But big man Viktor Kozlov lit the lamp for his first playoff goal of his NHL career to cut the Ranger's lead to 1 goal. Fellow sniper Alex Semin, assisted by Ovie and the hawk-rocking Green, tied the game at 3-3. Jeff Schultz unfortunately made a gaffe of killer proportions late in the third as he coughed up the puck to youngster Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the game-winning goal for the Rangers.

Overall, it was a strong effort for the home team. They are going to have to crash the net (that's you Brooksie) and take some serious advantage of rebounds to beat the guy with the big pads Henrik Lundqvist. And in his post-game press conference Gabby said that some changes are a'coming for Game Two - we'll have to wait and see.

Rock it Loud Caps Fans!

The fever is rising and the moment we've ALL been waiting for is almost here: Game One against the New York Rangers. Unfortunately, Hockey Mom won't be in attendance tonight as (shocker!), one of the boys has lacrosse practice and it's my turn to carpool. Amen for XM Radio to keep me up on the precious minutes (I drive fast) I'll miss picking up the crew...

Surprisingly enough, God's gift to fashion and hockey (at least in his own world), Sean Avery, isn't doing a whole lot of pre-game trash-talking - yet. According to Larry Brooks of the NY Post, all Sean had to say today was "All I've got are clichés, man." Let's hope that the boys and the red-roaring crowd make Avery and his blueshirt pals a cliché in four!

And not that it needs reiterating but HM is making a personal plea to all the fabulous Caps fans out there to be exceptionally loud as my big mouth will be missing from the thousands of screaming Caps' faithful. Not that this is new news or anything but you all are giving the Phone Booth quite a reputation! Check out this little snippet from Adam Muir of Sports Illustrated:

Another key factor is home ice. The Rangers couldn't buy a road win down the stretch and have won just once at the Verizon Center since 2004. The boisterous crowds have turned the Phone Booth into one of the league's toughest rinks to visit. Look for that support to help the Caps to their first series win since 1998.

So unleash that fury people and let the flipping puck drop already!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stanley Cup Playoff Traditions Run Deep

Most hockey fans know that one of the most fun traditions to watch during playoff season is the practice of players not shaving their faces during the team’s entire playoff run. Thus when the Detroit Red Wings hoisted the Cup last year, it looked like a team made up of Kris Kringle-meets-Grizzly Adams-meets-The Geico Caveman on ice! This playoff ritual was believed to have been started by the New York Islanders back in the 1980s.

The Washington Capitals are embracing this tradition and encouraging fans to participate in the Capitals Beard-A-Thon, along with several local media celebrities. Fans may elect to grow a beard themselves or make a financial donation in support of a Capitals player or a fan that has elected to grow a playoff beard, with proceeds going to Washington Capitals Charities. Hockey Mom is putting her money on Nick Backstrom to grow the best beard – now that will be a sight to see! P.S., Nick if you start looking anything like Sidney Crosby did with his pencil-thin mustache during last year’s run, I’m sure you’ll get a pass!

Now when I first heard of this fantastic contest, my first thought was “what about the ladies”? Never fear fabulous female Caps fans, I have an idea for a new tradition just for us that I’ll share later!

Many of the playoff traditions are fan-centric, like the “red out”, "white out" or the tradition of the Red Wings fans throwing slimy octopi on the ice. The Wings even have a guy who specializes in “twirling” the sea creature before flinging it onto the rink! This tradition started back in 1952, after two brothers threw an octopus onto the ice with each leg representing one of the team's eight playoff wins. The octopus is one of my very favorite traditions (other than the Caps’ recent initiation of the “red out”) of course and I always wonder how the heck they get those slithery things through stadium security (especially those big monsters)!

But players adapt playoff rituals as well in addition to the beard growth, as hockey players can tend to be a superstitious breed, especially around playoff time! A long-time superstition among NHLers is that it may be bad luck to touch Lord Stanley’s Cup before your team has officially won the coveted trophy.

So it will be interesting to monitor the Caps’ playoff beard progress – I personally hope they all look like the guys from Z.Z. Top at the end, which will mean a great long playoff run!

And as for us gals who can’t grow beards, I say we create our own form of a red out and rock the red lipstick (think Madonna circa 1983) and red nail polish throughout the Caps’ run. I’ve even found the perfect lip tint for every skin color – aptly named Russian Red (how perfect is that)!

It's Here! Playoff Schedule

For your weekly planning purposes, here is the official First Round playoff schedule along with media outlets that will be broadcasting all the fun, courtesy of the Caps' PR department:

Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Schedule Versus New York Rangers

Game 1: Wednesday, April 15 - 7 p.m. at Washington (Comcast SportsNet, TSN, WJFK, WCBM)

Game 2: Saturday, April 18 - 1 p.m. at Washington (NBC, TSN, WJFK, WCBM)

Game 3: Monday, April 20 - 7 p.m. at New York (Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, WJFK, WCBM)

Game 4: Wednesday, April 22 - 7 p.m. at New York (Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, WJFK, WCBM)

*Game 5: Friday, April 24 7 p.m. at Washington (Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, RDS, WJFK, WCBM)

*Game 6: Sunday, April 26 - 2 p.m. at New York (NBC, TSN, RDS, WJFK, WCBM)

*Game 7: Tuesday, April 28 - TBD at Washington (Comcast SportsNet, VERSUS, TSN, RDS, WJFK, WCBM)

*If necessary

P.S. In case you missed it, the Rangers won over the thugnasty Flyers yesterday, scoring the only short-handed goal the Flyers have allowed all year. Bring it!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Huh? Mike Mibury Said What? Playoff Preview

So there's obviously not a whole lot to say about last night's Capitals' non-showing against the non-playoff bound Florida Panthers. Except that I hope the excuse is "we were looking forward to playoffs next week" and we now know that the boys will be facing a new and retooled New York Rangers team.

Hockey fans did have the chance to see one of the most exciting games HM has witnessed in a while in the NCAA Divsion 1 Men's Hockey Final between Boston University and Miami of Ohio. After holding a 2-1 lead up until the third period, BU made an exciting comeback in the final minute of the third, scoring two goals to tie the game. Cap's d-man Tom Poti (who we hope to see back in time for Game 1), a former BU Terrier, must have been beside himself watching his alma mater's rally! The game went into overtime and the Miami Red Hawks lost an absolute heartbreaker as a BU goal took a flukey bounce right off of the very defender who laid his body down to block it - right into the top shelf of the Miami goal. There was not a gosh-durn thing in the world that could have been done to stop that one but congrats to Boston University on adding another national title to their impressive resume.

So back to the long-anticipated playoffs...the Capitals haven't seen the Blueshirts since the addition of new coach John Tortorella, Nik Antropov, Derek Morris and of course the drama king himself, Sean Avery, who spent last season with the Dallas Stars and was later relegated to bad behavior boot camp for offensive comments. If nothing else, waiting to see what kind of tricks Avery pulls out of his sleeve will make this series one to watch! I wonder what nail polish color the eccentric and fashion-conscious #16 has chosen for the series - he's been known to be a fan of Chanel black (dude - that is so last year).

The buzz has already started around all of the playoff matchups, but HM almost fell out of her seat today as Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury were discussing the various teams in the first round (as I was watching the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings get trounced by the youthful Chicago Blackhawks). Caps fans are all too familiar with Mike Milbury, who has had frequent bouts of "foot in mouth" disease after calling Ovechkin a dog last year. But miracle of miracles, it seems Milbury has joined the millions on Capitals' bandwagon predicting the Blueshirts to drop out of the first round in five games...

Now we wait for the official game schedule so that we can all plan our week's events around what we've been waiting for all season - PLAYOFF HOCKEY! Stay tuned for updates and lots of other fun stuff...

Friday, April 10, 2009

One Proud Hockey-Loving Family...

As much as my twins drive me crazy at times, I know that I am beyond blessed to have happy and healthy kids, especially since they were born prematurely. Each year, countless babies are born prematurely, which can lead to debilitating health issues and even death.

Which brings me to this amazing story. Hockey Mom is proud to know this year's 2009 March of Dimes Ambassador, little Katelyn Hall. Katelyn was born at 25 weeks and weighed less than one pound. She was hospitalized for several months and her family endured many health scares and precarious surgeries for their precious daughter. I know her parents Ashley and Michael, who are both avid hockey fans and players in their own right. I've seen Ashley play on a men's team and as Craig Laughlin would say, "she is one tough customer!" The Halls now devote their time to successfully raising funds and awareness for the March of Dimes to fund research, awareness and education to help families have healthier babies.

And I'm happy to report that Katelyn is a happy five-year old who will be traveling the country as the fabulous official Ambassador to the March of Dimes. To read her incredible story and to donate to this tremendous cause, click here.

Keep up the great work, Hall family and see you at the rink!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Night Hockey Extravanganza

In addition to the Capitals/Lightning game, there was lots of other on-ice action tonight with many games having some serious playoff implications. On the subject of playoffs, I have to give kudos to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who've made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Carolina's hot streak ended tonight at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-1 loss. And the Florida Panthers defeated the Thrashers by one goal. Things start getting wild and wacky in the last week of the regular season, especially for those clubs clawing for that #8 seed!

Back here in Washington, the Cinderella story has unfortunately come to an end as Bemidji State lost tonight against Miami University in the Frozen Four semi-finals. As Hockey Mom doesn't have a dog in the show, I'd kind of adopted Bemidji State Beavers as my team to cheer on.

As the Caps wait to see who they'll dance with in the first round, they played their second to last game of the regular season against a Lightning team decimated with injuries. Minus the dashing Vincent LeCavalier, the Bolts managed to get on the board fast and furious courtesy of Tampa's numero uno draft pick Steven Stamkos. Stamkos blew one past Theo at only 36 seconds into the first period. But in the second period and beyond, it was all Caps! Brooks Laich lit the lamp twice and David Steckel scored on an assist from Matt Bradley to give the boys a 3-1 advantage going into the third. The Lightning tightened the score to 3-2 late in the third with a fluky deflection goal. But Game Over Green rocketed a puck into the empty net to take the 4-2 win and clench the second spot in the East (loud cheers and applause from the crowds)!

You can definitely start to feel playoff fever - though it hasn't even begun to spike! On the way home from the gym today, I passed two cars (not including mine of course) that were flying their Capitals flags with pride. My friends like to call mine my "pizza man" flag as my red car with the red flag flying usually speeds by so fast, it can be easily confused for the Domino's delivery dude. You know us hockey moms have places to go and people to see!

So we wait to see who we're paired with: the Montreal Canadiens (who are not without Mathieu Schneider - playa was on the ice tonight against the Bruins)or the New York Rangers who have rallied under new coach John Tortorella. Time to start growing those playoff beards gents and let's get this party started!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Caps Win in Blueland: Capitals 4 - Atlanta 2

First I must offer my apologies for not posting any new updates on the team we all know and love since the Buffalo downer on Friday. As the Capitals have defeated the Atlanta Thrashers twice since then, Hockey Mom has been busy entertaining my sister and her family (up from Atlanta no less) during the kids' Spring Break.

So as you great sports fans out there already know, Sunday's game finally saw the secondary scoring the Capitals have been waiting for. And tonight's 4-2 win saw the return of Flash (Tomas Fleischmann) who tallied a goal and an assist, along with his team mates Alex Semin, Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov. The Caps also saw a fabulous effort from young Simeon Varlamov, who stonewalled Ilya Kovalchuk and proved that he might be ready for primetime should his skills be required during the playoffs.

So now we just have to wait and see how the first round teams will match up. The New Jersey Devils lost to Toronto tonight, giving the Caps a solid hold on second place in the East. And talk about losing, HM thought they were showing NBA scores when I saw the Canes/Islanders final - Carolina shut out the Isles 9-0!

Next up for the Capitals, the Tampa Bay Lightning (again?) on Thursday. The Bolts will be minus some big guns on their roster as Vinny LeCavalier just had wrist surgery and Ryan Malone has a broken hand. Let's keep adding to that 106 points, huh boys?

During our tour of the great city of Washington today, I was lucky enough to run across the now infamous Caps fan Walter - a homeless gentleman who follows the team on the big screen outside of the Verizon Center. Walter was recently the subject of a post by Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog. We shook hands and he was so excited to tell me that he is always rocking the red, proudly displaying his Capitals sweatshirt that he says he "never takes off." That was quite a moment for my both myself and my boys as it really brings the plight of the homeless to light. And Walter with all of his enthusiasm and love for the Caps actually puts a face to the countless number of homeless men, women and children - who are increasing by the day as a result of the economy. I hope that my boys realize how lucky we are and that we all need to do our part to put an end to homelessness in this country.

I look forward to seeing you again Walter during the playoffs - you rock the red well!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sneaky Sabres Still in the Race: Buffalo 5 - Capitals 4

The Buffalo Sabres entered the red-rockin' Phone Booth tonight with their playoff hopes on the line. They came out with a vengeance (not to borrow the Flyers' lame tagline or anything) and got on the board twice in the first period against rookie net minder Simeon Varlamov.

But they also neglected to read the memo about giving the Caps power play opportunities and the men in red retaliated with three power play goals - one in the first and two in the second. One of those three tallies included a Russian rocket from just beyond the blue line from Sergei Fedorov, who moved up to the first line in this game. The other two goals came from the two Alexs: Ovechkin (probably still ramped from his meeting with NBA superstar LeBron "King" James last night) and his pal Alex Semin. Fedorov lit the lamp for a second time in the third period on a wicked even strength goal and gave the home team a 4-3 lead.

The Sabres played a physical game but took some serious penalties - at one point in the second there were three Buffalo players in the sin bin! Reminded me of one our last Pee Wee games where there were five kids in the box at once. And man was big boy Jeff Schultz throwing that humongous frame of his around - he had some sweet hits against the boards. And nice move in the third, throwing himself in front of the Sabres' Maxim Afinogenov's shot that would have been a certain goal! Afinogenov was fit to be tied after the guys in stripes negated his goal which would have tied it up - as he made incidental contact with Varlamov.

Ovie took a seat midway through the third, much to the loud disapproval of the Caps' faithful, after he was bogusly called for goalie interference after sliding into Ryan Miller at full speed. Miller proceeded to duke Ovie in the mouth with his blocker, which in my humble opinion should have drawn a penalty as well. Afinogenov tied the game again at 4-4 in third.

This hard-hitting, high-scoring matchup went into OT at 4-4. That's where Buffalo's Jason Pomminville took advantage of an errant pass (from Feds of all people) and quickly took it to the net against Varly and the Caps to capture the win and stay in the playoff race.

HM will never hear the end of this one as one of the boys' Spring hockey coaches is THE biggest Sabres fan I've ever met. Despite the loss, it was a great effort on the part of the home team where there was some science experimenting going on with the lines. So the the guys earn their second consecutive Southeastern Conference title (faint clink of champagne glass in the background) and will meet the Atlanta Thrashers (who've been thrashing their opponents of late) on Sunday in the Caps' last regular season game on home ice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Green Machine Keeps Rollin'...

After a (HM stifles huge yawn) sluggish start against the bottom-feeding New York Islanders, the Capitals managed to rally back in the third period to capture a 5-3 victory last night at the Phone Booth. Before the rally, the Caps lack of energy and multiple giveaways resulted in three goals from the Isles courtesy of Kyle Okposo, Franz Nielsen and Richard Park. But fear not faithful Caps fans, as the Green Machine wrapped up the "V" and marked a few more historic milestones along the way! The first goal from #52 set the record for most power play goals in a season by a Washington defenseman. The second tally notched him 30 big ones on the season, making him only the 17th NHLer to ever score 30 goals in one season. He joins an impressive list of former players, including the legendary Bobby Orr. So Hockey Mom joins the throngs of Caps fans in congratulating Green for his incredible accomplishments and we hope to see much more of the Green Machine's magic touch in the playoffs!

And let us not forget last night's hard hat recipient, Keith Aucoin, who was rocking that red hard hat after netting his first NHL goal of the season! More great news for Aucoin today as he was named to the AHL's First All-Star Team, along with team mate Alexandre Giroux.

Last night's win gave the Caps a total of 101 points on the season -giving them a solid hold on second place in the East. The New Jersey Devils, who previously had the second place stronghold, are in a bit of a stretch slump to say the least! They had a horrid 6-1 loss last night at the hands of the new and improved Pittsburgh Penguins.

So high-fives all around, especially to Mike Green. Let's hope that the boys can bring that energy from the first face off so we don't see another come from behind against the Sabres tomorrow (whose playoff chances are fading fast)!