Saturday, October 23, 2010

Southeastern Conference Showdown: Thrashers Visit Capitals

Depleted by the injury bug (which the past few weeks seems to be as hard to erradicate as those pesky bed bugs), the Capitals called up reinforcements Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle from Hershey to face the Atlanta Thrashers at home. Both teams were coming off of a two-loss streak and the Caps were without the services of Tom Poti, Boyd Gordon, Marcus Johansson, Matt Bradley and as we learned right before the game, Semyon Varlamov.  A healing Mike Green was dressed but used in limited capacity (as in, only on the power play) And as added motivation to turn this ship around, the boys were called out by owner Ted Leonsis yesterday after Thursday's debacle in Boston.

The Thrashers got on the board first with a power play goal from former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd. Unfortunately, the home team managed a few too many trips to the sin bin and were unable to get on the scoreboard in the opening period. End of first: Thrashers 1 - Capitals 0

2nd period:
38 seconds into the second period, Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason errantly tried to clear the puck, directly to a waiting Alex Semin who ripped it in net for the Caps' first goal.

Shortly after, it was Atlanta's offense getting it done. Rich Peverly set up Evander Kane from behind the net. Kane then proceeded to go five-hole on Neuvirth to take the 2-1 lead.

And the much anticipated return of an injured Mike Green came at 9:41 when Jim Slater took a seat for interference. Green still appears to be somewhat less than 100% but set up what looked to be the tying goal. However, the stripes sent it to review and the hockey gods in Toronto deemed it to have been "kicked in" and called it as no goal to the vocal disagreement of the home crowd.

Neuvirth made an eye-popping save on what would've been a clean breakaway goal for sure but the headturning action for him came later in the period.

At the 17:32 mark, Dustin Byfuglien bolted from his seat in the penalty box (where he was banished for tripping) and instead of putting on the brakes, took a full force run at Michal Neuvirth. Neuvirth flew into the goal, stick and legs flying, as a result of the impact. An infuriated John Erskine wasted no time in making Byfuglien pay, pounding the big guy into the ice.

Erskine recieved two minutes for roughing but Byfuglien paid the ultimate price, slapped with a five-minute major and exiting with a game misconduct. Thankfully, Neuvy seemed to be shaken up but appears to have survived the collision no worse for wear. What is with the craziness involving goaltenders each time these two teams have met thus far? For the love already....

Third Period:
So the boys started the third period with 2:32 left on their power play.

Seconds into it, Brooks Laich was whistled for hooking- negating the remaining time on the man advantage.

The Caps took advantage of a bad Atlanta pass which was intercepted by the energizer bunny that is Mathieu Perreault. Number 85 was well on his way to a clear breakaway when he was tripped. On his way down, Perreault managed to get the puck over to Alex Semin, who netted his second goal on the evening at 5:09 of the period.

Then at 13:28, Alex Semin earned the hat trick courtesy of a beautiful pass from Mathieu Perreault. Congrats to Sasha and another outstanding play by the hard-charging Perreault!

To the dismay of Capitals' fans, this one wasn't over just yet. With 32 seconds left, Evander Kane sliced the puck out of mid-air to tie the game at 3-3.

So this one could not be decided in regulation and required overtime. With 1:37 left in OT, Tomas Fleischmann sniped one over Chris Mason to win the game.

 Final Score: Capitals 4 - Thrashers 3

Not a perfect performance by any means, but the boys won a tough one at home and several of the role players including John Erskine had terrific games. Mathieu Perreault made a resounding case for why he deserves a permanent spot on the roster.

HM will miss all of the Capitals' action next week as I'm travelling for work but be sure to check out all the fabulous blogs on my blogroll for the latest and greatest. Happy hockey watching!

Cheerleaders in the NHL Finally Make it to Canada - To the Despair of Hockey Traditionalists

Many of the Southeastern Conference teams have had them for years - cheerleaders, spirit girls, whatever you want to call them. As if NHL fans need any more spirit. The Capitals debuted the Red Rockers a few seasons ago, much to the chagrin of many fans that don't fall into the 14-year old boy demographic. But we've come to accept them as part of the in-game entertainment, even though the process took awhile.

Well now the hockey cheerleader phenomenon has crossed the border into Canada as the Edmonton Oilers announced the addition of a cheer squad to the dismay of hockey purists across the country. HM heard from a male hockey fan on the new Oilers' pom-pom shaking addition, who had this to say: "I'm there to see brawls not broads." Enuff said. But for a unique perspective on the Oilers' recent announcement from a tried and true Canadian female fan, check out this post from Hockey & High Heels author Lisa Ovens. From the reaction HM is gauging from around the hockey blogosphere, mainsteam media and Twitterverse, Lisa is not the only one of our hockey-loving neighbors to the North wanting to "just say no" to "spirit squads"...

Editor's Note: Hockey Mom will be previewing Lisa's new book For the Love of Empty Net Goals on this blog in the very near future. Sure to be a very fun read - be sure to pre-order yours from her Web site.

Caps Host Hockey Fights Cancer Night

When the puck drops tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers, the Capitals will be looking to fight more than just the foe on the ice as they participate in Hockey Fights Cancer night at Verizon Center. Several players have had their own personal experiences living with family members diagnosed with cancer. During tonight's pre-game ceremony, players Matt Bradley, Mike Knuble and Tyler Sloan, whose mothers have all battled cancer, will help recognize 30 very special Caps fans. This group includes the true heroes who have battled, beaten, helped treat or been personally touched by leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease or myeloma. Each participant will be rocking the red in a T-shirt with the Caps logo on the front, the Hockey Fights Cancer logo on the back and the LLS (The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) logo on the sleeve. During tonight's game Mike Green (Green’s Gang) and Alex Ovechkin (Ovi’s Crazy 8’s) are donating their seats to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s National Capital Area Chapter. Attendees sitting in these sections will be blood cancer survivors and patients and will also be included in the on-ice ceremony.

During tonight's game, the Caps will also raise vital funds in the fight to erradicate cancer by hosting a jersey auction at the community relations table located at section 104 in Verizon Center benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s National Capital Area Chapter. These autographed home jerseys will be worn by players during warmups and will feature Hockey Fights Cancer patches on the front with the players’ names and numbers stitched in grey on the back. The red and grey jerseys are the same colors as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s logo.

The team is partnering this year with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services. The Caps are encouraging fans to text HFC to 90999 to make a $5 donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and help find a cure for cancer. Fans can also donate specifically to the National Capital Area Chapter at

Hockey Fights Cancer is a joint charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association. It is supported by players, NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials’ Association, professional hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America. The goal of Hockey Fights Cancer is to raise money and awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research. To date, Hockey Fights Cancer has raised more than $11 million. Hockey Fights Cancer is a component of The Biggest Assist Happens Off The Ice, the National Hockey League’s and National Hockey League Players’ Association’s social responsibility program that builds on hockey’s long-standing tradition of addressing important social issues in North America and around the world.

About The National Capital Area Chapter
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has 58 U.S. chapters, and the National Capital Area Chapter is one of the highest revenue-generating chapters in the nation. The National Capital Area Chapter serves Washington, D.C.; the Maryland counties of Prince George and Montgomery; and the Virginia Counties of Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Prince William. More than 2,500 patients and families are served by the chapter each year.

In other charitable news, one guy that really knows how to get under the skin of Capitals' faithful, has cut his signature flame-red hair and donated it to Locks for Love. Philadelphia Flyer forward Scott Hartnell, will look a little less like the GEICO Caveman from now on without his trademark mane flying out of his helmet. How about that new do, eh? Good for him though - a very, very worthwhile cause.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Preventing Concussions and Hockey Parent Meltdowns

As the Capitals took to the ice at TD Bank Gardens tonight (in their second ugly – emphasis on ugly- loss in a week to the boys from Beantown), the Bs were once again without one of their key offensive players. Marc Savard is still suffering from the lingering effects of post-concussion syndrome, months after being leveled by Pens goon Matt Cooke – who received not as much as a slap on the hand for the dangerous hit. These kinds of hits, along with the brutal head hits seen in several NFL games this past weekend, are once again bringing the issue of damaging concussions and how to prevent them to the forefront of both amateur and professional sports.

The renowned Mayo Clinic conducted a summit this week to further discuss this issue, which is becoming an all too common occurrence at both the youth and professional levels. The New York Times Slap Shot blog had comprehensive coverage of the summit, which brought together hockey officials, physicians and former players who’ve experienced the detrimental effects of concussions. For the pros, the Mayo Clinic wants to see a ban on all head contact in addition to the new league rule outlawing blindside hits. To protect the vulnerable heads of youth players, several new measures were recommended, including re-training coaches and adding education on head injuries to the USA Hockey curriculum. HM has seen several young players sidelined by concussions, a very scary injury. The Capital’s Karl Alzner recently spoke to Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog about his own experiences with concussions – some very serious stuff.

And now on to hockey parent meltdowns (Editor’s note: HM just suffered a hockey parent meltdown of her own after watching the Caps drop another game to a hot Tim Thomas and the Bruins – sloppy work boys). Hockey Calgary wants to keep hockey moms and dads from behaving badly at the rink by implementing mandatory anger management courses. From my own personal experience, if a kid on the ice is acting like a goon or mouthing off to officials, chances are the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Judging by some of the heated exchanges I've witnessed between parents during games (cough cough, especially some of those from the city of Brotherly Love), this program should be made mandatory for hockey parents in the States as well. Speaking of anger management, HM is off to get her blood pressure back in check after the 4-1 loss in which the Caps' power play continued to be a non-factor. Up next: The Atlanta Thrashers come to town Saturday.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Capitals Donate $25,000 to the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association

A huge stick tap to the Washington Capitals organization for their continued support of youth hockey in the D.C. region, which has helped the sport grow like gangbusters among area kids of all ages. Today the Capitals helped ensure the continued growth and program excellence for hockey in this area by making a $25,000 donation to  Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association (PVAHA) to help fund the 2010-11 John Crerar Hockey Development Grant.

Organized amateur hockey in the Washington, D.C., area developed in large part through the perseverance and dedication of John Crerar. Crerar was one of the founders of the Cap Boys youth hockey program, served as the president and co-founder of the Capital Beltway Hockey League, was the president of the Southeastern Amateur Hockey Association, and served for many years as a director of USA Hockey. Crerar was also the director of operations for off-ice officials for the Washington Capitals for a number of years. Crerar passed away on Oct. 14, 2006. To honor his contribution to the hockey community, the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association established the John Crerar Hockey Development Grant Program.

“The Washington Capitals are partners and great supporters of youth and amateur hockey within our area,” said John Cole, president of the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association. “The grant funds awarded to PVAHA by the Washington Capitals allow us to promote new membership at our younger age levels, and to support disabled hockey and American Development Model initiatives.”

The purpose of the John Crerar Hockey Development Grant Program is to assist the member associations within PVAHA to increase participation and promote hockey development within Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Nonprofit 501(c)(3) member associations within the Potomac Valley Amateur Association are eligible to apply for affiliate grants. Member associations are asked to come up with ideas to grow the sport at the local level and can seek financial assistance from PVAHA to help support their efforts.

“One of the main goals of Washington Capitals Charities is to support programs that encourage participation in hockey,” said Elizabeth Wodatch, director of community relations for the Washington Capitals. “This grant shows our dedication to amateur hockey in the D.C. area and commitment to grow the sport locally.”

Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association
The Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association is an Affiliate of the Southeastern District of USA Hockey. The Affiliate is the governing body of all amateur hockey within the District of Columbia and the states of Maryland and Virginia (including HM's boys' travel team).

Washington Capitals Charities
Created in 2000, Washington Capitals Charities offers unique resources and Caps Care programs to other charities and organizations on behalf of the Capitals. Its mission is to create, maintain and support community programs in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area that encourage participation in hockey, serve to educate youth, assist those who are less fortunate and focus on health and wellness. Washington Capitals Charities is also committed to supporting the charitable endeavors, initiatives and foundations of the team’s players and alumni.

During the 2009-10 season, the Washington Capitals Charities provided support to the following programs through the John Crerar Hockey Development Grant: Baltimore Saints Special Hockey, Bennett Blazers Sled Hockey, Kids On Ice, Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club, Montgomery Youth Hockey, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Nelson Hockey Association, Northern Virgina Cool Cats Special Hockey, The Northern Virginia Hockey Club Youth Program, Reston Raiders, Southern Maryland Sabres Hockey Club, Inc., Tri-City Youth Hockey Club, USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, Washington Ice Dogs and Whaler Nation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Scary Day at the Rink

Up until yesterday, HM's twins had managed to play five years and umpteen games of hockey with no serious injuries (knock on major wood). Our luck ran out during an early morning game, and despite some hairy moments, I'm glad to report that my Bantam is going to be okay. With about 54 seconds left in a tied house game, it appeared that he'd taken a puck to the shin or somehow gotten hit in front of a crowded net. He proceeded to skate off limply but there was no cause for concern until his dad was summoned to come to the bench from the penalty box.

Knowing how mortifying it is for a teenage boy to have his mom overreact to every injury, I stayed put in the stands - that is until I heard Dad yell "Call 911" to the officials. Then of course I ran (as calmly as I could) and crossed the ice myself to our bench. When I got there, I found the coach applying serious pressure to his leg and holding the leg above his heart. That's when I realized he'd been cut in the part of the leg between where the top of the skate starts and the bottom of the shin pad ends. I cannot give enough praise to our USA Hockey-trained coach, who was cool as a cucumber and knew exactly what to do.

The paramedics were called and he was taken by stretcher into a waiting ambulance, where I was told his nasty gash was about two inches wide and pretty deep. After five hours in the ER, I am happy to report that he walked away (with the aid of crutches) with 15 stitches and narrowly missed any tendon damage. He'll be on "injured reserve" for about 10 days but we are so very thankful that it was not any worse. He did have a little fun with a bad situation as he left the hospital with some cool scrub pants (he arrived in full smelly hockey gear) and knocked down a few cans in the grocery while riding on the motorized cart. Which brings me to the importance of properly fitting equipment. While there's no need for the kevlar socks that Joe Corvo wore after having his tendon slashed by a Nick Backsrom skate, kids need to make sure they are wearing shin pads (and everything else) that fits as it should. In our case, he was sporting his old shin pads (that were obviously outgrown) that left a gap between the skate and the pad.

So after all of that excitement and manning the penalty box for the late game, I have to admit I was "done" and missed the Capitals come from behind win over the Predators. The good news out of that game is that Michal Neuvirth continues to shine, establishing quite a nice reputation in his last few outings. From what I've read this morning, the bad news is that the absence of Tom Poti and Mike Green was pretty obvious in a mediocre defensive effort by the players who dressed for Washington. Up next, the Boston Bruins pay a visit on Tuesday.

And before signing off this morning, just another note on preventing injuries - NHL-style. Most puckheads remember last season's devastating hit on Florida's David Booth, that kept him away from the ice for several months. With more than 12 NHLers already sidelined by concussions this season, Booth is urging his peers to play smarter in an effort to eliminate head shots in the game. In addition to the league's more stringent rules on head contact, Booth says players at this elite level know the difference between a legal hit or one designed to maim an opponent and in hockey mom speak, need to "make the right choices." On a positive note, it looks like this young man may be back to his pre-injury form as he lit the lamp twice for the Panthers in yesterday's 6-0 drubbing of Tampa Bay. Nice work....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Capital's New Group of Young Guns Turning Some Heads

Semyon Varlamov's return from injury gives the Capitals one of youngest goaltending duos in the league. Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, both 22, have played just 58 career NHL games between them. Neuvy played splendidly against the Islanders on Wednesday night and he's garnered lots of attention from some of the hockey media, as has fellow team mate John Carlson. Though Carlson made a few rookie mistakes against the Isles, which is bound to happen along the season's long road, his performance against New Jersey last week gave hockey fans a glimpse of what is bound to be a bright future for the lad dubbed "Captain America."

USA Today's Kevin Allen recognized Carlson's abilities when he picked him as his top NHL rookie for this season, placing him ahead of other highly-touted youngsters such as top draft picks Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Cam Fowler. And Carlson's not the only kid in a red sweater on the list - Michal Neuvirth is listed at number five with a mention of the coveted "Calder" trophy consideration alongside his name. We look forward to many years with these young talents as well as watching some of the other future stars of league cited as ones to watch!

Speaking of youth, HM will most likely miss part, if not all, of the Capital's game against the Nashville Predators tomorrow night. Based on the fact that neither of my frequently penalized boys made a trip to the sin bin when yours truly was doing box duty during our recent tournament, apparently the penalty box is going to become my second home. As the Caps take the ice in the Music City, I will be opening and closing the penalty box door for our team's offenders, of which the coach is hoping will not include either of my twins due to my glaring presence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hard Working Boys from the Island Visit Capitals Tonight

Hockey Mom has a previous engagement this evening and won't be blogging during the game but let's take a peek at tonight's opponent, the New York Islanders. The Isles have certainly been in the news the past two days, not because of their play but due to the crude gesture James Wisniewski made towards Ranger's antagonist extraordinaire Sean Avery. Of course my boys thought the gesture was hilarious - but that goes without saying as they're almost 15-years old. Word of warning: If I ever see something like that on the ice from you two, you won't have to worry about Gary Bettman. I can assure you the wrath of HM is punishment enough! After suspending Avery himself for his deragatory comments towards Dion Phaneuf and Avery's former girlfriend last season, the league sent a message and suspended Wisniewski for two games. (Unrelated: Niklas Hjalmarsson of Chicago was also suspended yesterday - he'll sit out two games for his nasty from behind hit on Buffalo's Jason Pominville).

The Islanders are a gritty bunch of lunch-pail hockey players and always give the Caps a hard-fought battle. But they've been bitten hard by the injury bug of late and will be without the contributions of several key players: Kyle Okposo, John Tavares and top defenseman Mark Streit. Tomas Fleischmann will get to see his old pal and former Capital Milan Jurcina wearing an Isles sweater for the first time this season in Verizon Center. On the Capital's bench, Tom Poti, Matt Bradley and youngster Marcus Johansson are all battling various injuries.

Despite being without Tavares, Streit and Okposo, the Islanders still won a high-scoring Columbus Day contest against their rivals from down the road. Blake Comeau has really stepped up and was responsible for two of the six goals against the Blueshirts on Monday. The Isles also saw goals from PA Parenteau, Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson and Frans Nielsen with the empty netter. In addition to getting a lovely snow shower from who else but Sean Avery, a finally healthy Rick DiPietro stopped 29 of the 33 shots he faced.

I would expect that the boys from Lawng Island won't go down without a fight but still predict a win for the men in red in front of their home crowd.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NHL's Wheel of Justice Starts Rolling Early in the Season

Is it just me or does it seem like the NHL's Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell, is having to spin the wheel of justice and do some serious hand slapping earlier than usual this season? I mean we're only one week into the official regular season and Campbell will already be considering two incidents that just occured yesterday. The first involves the Islanders' James Wisniewski, who may or may not be disciplined for making a crude hand gesture to super-pest Sean Avery in a scrum in front of the crease. As this blog is PG-13, I can't post the video but unfortunately I think most of the 13 to 14-year olds this day and age in a hockey locker room would know what the aforementioned gesture indicates. Hopefully, the younger kids do not but the fact is that the question will arise among younger fans of the game and wouldn't want to be in the hot seat having to explain that one.

The second incident involved a reckless hit from behind on Buffalo's Jason Pominville by Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson. After lying on the ice for 15 minutes, Pominville was taken off the ice on a stretcher. HM heard an interview with Hjalmarsson this morning where he expressed his remorse for the injury but said he thought it was a "shoulder to shoulder" hit. He may have been aiming for the shoulder but he could see those numbers plain as day as Pominville's back was clearly turned. I would be shocked if Campbell doesn't dole out further disciplinary action as Hjalmarsson was already cited with a game misconduct and tossed for this ugly contact.

Looks like Campbell may have to throw the book a little early this school year, huh?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ovechkin Captures OT Win in Battle of the Capital Cities

After scoring just about every kind of goal known to puck heads on Saturday night, the Capitals got off to a slow start in tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators. The boys spent way too much time chasing Sens skaters in their offensive zone during the first period, but thankfully Michal Neuvirth had another stellar evening and kept damage to a minimum.

Alex Semin kicked things off for the home team, scoring late in the first period. Nasty Jarko Ruutu deflected a high puck with under ten minutes left in the second period to tie the game.  Ruutu would win the game's "best Crosby dive imitation" later in the second period. He initiated contact with Ovi then proceeded to perform a theatrical sprawl resulting in a questionable interference call on the Great Eight.

Shortly after the Ruutu tally, Matt Hendricks made a crisp pass from behind the net to a waiting Eric Fehr, who scored to give the boys a 2-1 lead.

The tenacious Senators refused to give up and tied the game at two apiece when Ryan Shannon beat John Carlson to roof the puck over Neuvy midway through final period. Neuvirth had another solid performance, making crucial stops when called upon including two sweet pad stops on Peter Regin in waning minutes of the final period. On the other side of the ice, Pascal Leclaire had a strong performance of his own and held on to force the contest into overtime.

But it was Alex Ovechkin with the hot stick, scoring the game winner with about 30 seconds left before this one went into a shoot out. The captain went five-hole against Leclaire, giving the boys the 3-2 victory.

Next up - the New York Islanders come to town on Wednesday and the Isles may be without John Tavares. And it remains to be seen what (if any) disciplinary action will be doled out to Islanders' defense man James Wisniewski after he made a crude gesture towards agitator Sean Avery (oh, the irony) in today's game between the Isles and Rangers.

Monday Miscellaneous: Ottawa Awaits

After the fireworks of Saturday night's heated win over the New Jersey Devils finally started to smolder, the Capitals started looking ahead to tonight's opponent - the Ottawa Senators. But before we look at tonight's contest, here's an interesting factoid related back to the brouhaha on Saturday: Washington earned four fighting majors and 40 penalty minutes in Saturday’s game. The Capitals only hit the 40-PIM mark twice all of last season and finished with 20 fighting majors for the year, the second fewest in the NHL. Here's another nice little fist pump from The Hockey Writers on the Capitals' tougher and more cohesive style that's emerged this season.

And the Devils' rookie-jumping goon who was behind the major fracas, Pierre-Luc Letourneau LeBlond, not only bought himself a one-game suspension with his tomfoolery, but according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the team also put him on waivers. For more on the waiver process, check out The Blonde Girl's Guide for everything you ever wanted to know about the NHL waiver process. We can only hope that #22 is not in the minors when these two teams meet again in November as I can almost assure you that big boy D.J. King will be dressed and ready to rumble.

And back to our regularly scheduled program: Tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators.

The boys are are 7-2-3 against Ottawa over the last three seasons while the Senators are off to a shaky start at 0-2. Alexander Semin recorded five goals and six points in three games against the Senators last season while Michal Neuvirth is scheduled to make his first career start tonight against the Sens.

Ottawa fell to the Maple Leafs by a 5-1 final on Saturday night and will be without the services of defenseman Filip Kuba. They have however, added a face on the blueline familiar to Capitals faithful in the form of one Sergei Gonchar. Chris Kelly and Jason Spezza are the only two Senators who've tallied a goal this young season, while Mr. Carrie Underwood (Mike Fisher) has not yet made a notch on the scoresheet. Here's a preview from the Ottawa Citizen on tonight's action. On the other side of the ice, Bruce Boudreau is expected to go with the same lines that saw such smashing success on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
And some other good news to report, after collapsing during Friday night's game against the Caps, Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec has been released from the hospital. Kukla's Korner published a statement from the Thrashers organization as well as Pavelec himself this morning. I know that all hockey fans join me in wishing him continued strength and hope to see him back in net soon!
Saturday night I tweeted how much I love the Capitals new opening video! If you haven't gotten down to the Phone Booth yet this season, this one will get you good and fired up - a Hockey Mom fist pump to the Caps for including members of the Capital region's various awesome youth hockey teams in this star-studded line up:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Capitals Beat Devils in Heated Home Opener

After dropping one to the Atlanta Thrashers last night in a completely lacklustre showing, the Capitals came home to play their first regular season game at Verizon Center. The only good news out of Atlanta last evening was that Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec does not appear to be in serious condition after he collapsed in front of his net and left the game on a stretcher. The latest is that Pavelec suffered a concussion and is still undergoing tests.

So after a bummer of an opening night, the boys came home to face an even more dangerous foe in the New Jersey Devils with the "Zipline" (Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk) and legendary goal tender Marty Brodeur.  Gabby switched up his d-pairings and reunited Karl Alzner and John Carlson while DJ King, David Steckel and Tyler Sloan were healthy scratches.

The Devils lit the lamp first courtesy of fomer Nashville captain Jason Arnott. John Carlson tallied for the Caps soon after with a blast from the blue line, leaving Brodeur sprawled helplessly. Zach Parise was a chippy little bugger throughout the first (but HM still loves the kid) and who else but Alex Semin took a seat for interference. During the resulting New Jersey power play, Michal Neuvirth stonewalled a perfect shot from Parise. Zach skated off to the sin bin shortly after for tripping but his team scored again with a goal from former Sabre Henrik Tallinder. Apparently some of our boys forgot to skate on that one as there seemed to be alot of standing around letting the Devils score a short-handed goal -grumph.

With under two minutes left in the opening stanza, New Jersey lost one of their star d-men, as Anton Volchenkov left the game after taking a Nick Backstrom shot to the mouth. Yet another argument for wearing a shield as the Verizon Center crew scraped his blood off the ice.

End of first: Devils: 2 - Capitals 1

The boys quickly regrouped early on in the second period as Tomas Fleischmann lit the lamp for his first goal of the season with help from Alex Semin and John Carlson (the rookie was having quite the evening) and evened the score at 2-2. Carlson also made a spiffy last minute save on what would have been a sure-fired Devils goal from speedy Patrick Elias. Number 74 swooped the puck out of harm's way at the last millisecond - the future is looking bright for this talented rookie for sure. Meanwhile Mike Green laid a wicked hip check on a Devil who wins the in-game contest for number of "Ls" in a proper name: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond (I kid you not - goon should have won a Chipotle burrito).

With 5:29 left in the period, Alex Ovechkin conducted stick handling school against several members of  the Devils' defense corps and gave the Caps the lead with assistance from Mike Knuble and again, that Carlson kid! Jason Chimera shuffled off to the sin bin for holding with less than three minutes left in the period. Immediately upon his release, the swift skating Chimera took a cross-ice pass from Flash to score and give the Caps a 2-goal lead. And as if the roof of the Phone Booth couldn't be raised any higher, Ovi was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped on a clean breakaway and roofed one over Marty to make it 5-2 at the end of the second.

Martin Brodeur got the hook for the final period and was replaced in goal by Johan Hedberg. At 17:44 the boys went short-handed for a too many men call and Ovi served the time. No worries - Hedberg decided to do his best Brodeur imitation and play the puck, leaving the net wide open for Brooks Laich to walk in for a short-handed goal. Shortly thereafter, Jason Chimera (already sporting a shiner) dropped the gloves with frequent brawler David Clarkson - Chimera saw the worst of the brief bout. When LaBlond went to the sin bin, Eric Fehr scored a beauty of a top shelf goal and gave the boys their first power play goal of the night (and a nice 5 goal lead)!

Some of the media members alongside me remarked about the invisibility of Ilya Kovalchuk - who was the focus of the media throughout the off season due to his large contract. He was pretty much silent until the closing minutes of the final period when he dropped the gloves with Mike Green! HM has to admit I never saw that one coming - but the refs let them go for a few. Then Matt Hendricks took on Rod Pelley and seconds later Matt Bradley downed David Clarkson - scenes reminiscent of the Charlestown Chiefs. The line was crossed when LeBlond decided to goon it up and duke it out with the first Capital he saw. Unfortunately, that guy happened to be the youngest kid on the team- rookie Marcus Johansson. The Caps bench cleared out a bit as more players got involved in the fisticuffs, including Karl Alzner. LeBlond was slapped with a late instigator penalty for starting a fight with less than five minutes left in the game - he will most likely face a suspension and/or a hefty fine (as he should, big bully). In the post game press conference, Coach Boudreau said he was asking New Jersey coach John MacLean "What was he doing" as Devils players continued to brawl underneath the five-minute mark. What an ugly way to end an otherwise exciting game...
Final score: Capitals 7 - Devils 2

What a difference a day makes, huh?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caps Face Thrashers to Kick Off 2010-2011 Season

The Capitals will kick off their 36th NHL season tonight with a game against the Thrashers down in Blueland. The Caps have started the season twice in Atlanta against the Thrash going 1-1-0. In the 2008-09 season the Caps fell to the Thrashers 7-4 but in the 2007-08 season the Caps won 3-1. Washington has won its last eight games against Atlanta dating back to the 2008-09 season.

But the team that will take the ice at Phillips Arena this evening won't look exactly like last year's Thrashers. Gone are the pesky Colby Armstrong (Maple Leafs), Marty Reasoner (Panthers), Pavel Kubina (Lightning) and Johan Hedberg (Devils). The Thrashers will also miss the contributions of Max Afinigenov, a 24-goal scorer last season who bolted for the KHL. Not to mention of course the departure from Atlanta late last season of their marquee sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, whose controversial contract with New Jersey kept the hockey media abuzz all summer.

HM has started to refer to the retooled Thrashers as "Blackhawks South" in reference to the four players from the Cup-winning Chicago team who were brought to the Coca-Cola capital this off-season by Atlanta GM Rick Dudley. Former Hawks Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd will aid in Atlanta's offensive efforts, while Brent Sopel and big boy Dustin Byfuglien will shore up the blue line. Don't be surprised to see Big Buff's grill in front of the net however, as he may also see time as forward due to his talents in crashing the net.  Chris Mason came over from St. Louis to man Atlanta's net, along with Ondrej Pavelec. Other kids to watch for include d-men Zach Bogosian and Tobia Enstrom, along with swift winger Evander Kane (who wrecked uber-villain Matt Cooke in a fight his rookie season). Everyone will definitely be keeping a close eye on 18-year old Russian center Alex Burmistrov, who will be making his NHL debut against fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin. For an inside look at this Southeastern Conference rival, check out Birdwatcher's Anonymous along with previews from the other side over on Atlanta's Web site.

22-year old Russian netminder Sergei Brobovsky stood on his head last night for the Flyers to spoil the Pittsburgh Penguins' home opener in their fancy new digs at the Console Energy Center. As for the Caps, it looks like our own talented Russian netminder Semyon Varlamov is still suffering from a groin injury. Michal Neuvirth will most likely be the starter for this evening's festivities.

And you know our favorite season of the year is finally upon us when Puck Daddy starts providing Brian Engblom hair updates! HM will be watching the Caps start on the long road to redemption with my fellow hockey parents and the boys' team tonight - and as if I have to tell you as I know we're all counting down the minutes - puck drops at 7:30.

To leave you with a smile on your face on this glorious day, check out the cutest story ever about the beloved Olie Kolzig from the fun folks over at RMNB. As if you needed more reason to love the guy...all together now: 1,2,3  - AAAWWW!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Getting Ready for the Season with Caps Red Line

HM missed lots of Caps happenings, including another sold-out Caps Convention, this weekend. Our boys made it to the  tournament championship game but came away with second-place honors - I had a feeling we might be in trouble when I walked into the rink behind several opposing players who were speaking fluent Russian. But it was a great effort by our kids and even more exciting was our hockey club's Squirt team - who won the championship in a shoot-out! That game was even more fun to watch for the goal celebrations - as Squirt players don't exactly have an extensive repertoire of shoot out dekes yet!

After umpteen loads of laundry and disinfecting the contents of two rancid hockey bags, I did manage to catch last night's pre-season special of Caps Red Line on Comcast SportsNet last night. It was a great episode, which included a one-on-one interview with Bruce Boudreau. Gabby spoke candidly with Mike Vogel about the disappointing end to last season and how it will serve as even further motivation for the upcoming season (which officially starts in two sleeps - Friday night against the retooled Thrashers). In another segment, the players interviewed each other and Alex Ovechkin did a spot-on Justin Bieber impression, calling the teen hearthrob (who my boys despise) "that kid with the great hair." This will be third season of Capitals Red Line which will continue in the second half of the Capitals’ season on Comcast SportsNet. As in the past, each episode will be available on after its original air date and will be automatically updated in a special online widget that fans can place on their social networking sites.

In other news, the Caps sent several players down yesterday in order to get closer to the Opening Day roster of no more than 23. Andrew Gordon, Jay Beagle and Brian Fahey did not make the final cut, but the one that really tugs at my heart strings was the release of Mathieu Perreault. The speedy but small Perreault, who had a fantastic training camp, lost out to Marcus Johansson. The coaching staff feels that Johansson plays with more of a defensive edge than Perreault, which is discussed over at RMNB today. I have to remind myself that it's a very long season and we most likely have not seen the last of young Matty by any stretch. The rugged Matt Hendricks has also found himself a home, a nice addition of some pugilistic character - it certainly came in handy after Gregory Campbell took a run at Ovi last week, eh?

Finally, for what they're worth - it's prediction time. Sporting one of the most spectacular mullets known to man, Barry Melrose makes one of my favorite picks by choosing Vancouver in the West and Washington in the East. (stick tap to Kukla's Korner for the video) HM might have to just go out and purchase that man a Costco-sized jar of Dippity-Do! We're kinda liking where Michael Farber of SI is going with his picks too.  Check out even more puck prognostication over at OFB.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we take a peek at our first foe - the Atlanta Thrashers....