Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter Classic Showdown Pushed Back to Primetime

The official word has come down from league offices that the impending weather situation in Pittsburgh has resulted in a decision to postpone the game until 8 p.m. tomorrow night.

From the NHL:


PITTSBURGH (December 31, 2010) – The National Hockey League announced today the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will change the original 1 p.m. (ET) start time on New Year's Day to 8 p.m. (ET). The decision was based on the latest meteorological reports, which have advised an approaching front of potentially steady rain expected to fall through the afternoon and taper off by early evening, and after consultation with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals, national broadcast partners (NBC, CBC, RDS), the Pittsburgh Steelers, the National Hockey League Players' Association, and local officials.

We have been further advised that cooler and drier air conditions are expected in the evening with the passing of the front. The NHL feels that it was important to make this announcement at this time so as to minimize the inconvenience to all parties associated with the event, especially our fans.

All 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic tickets will continue to be honored and all ticket holder agreement language remains unchanged.

The following is a list of changes for FANS based on the new 8 p.m. (ET) start time:

Gates to Heinz Field will now open at 5:30 p.m. (ET)
Pre-game entertainment now begins at 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Heinz Field Parking Lots will now open at 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Spectator Plaza will now open at 3 p.m. (ET)

The following are the weather-related GAME procedure contingencies for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic:

Once the game has begun, it may be subject to one or more temporary stoppages due to unplayable weather conditions, at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Period and game format may be reconfigured to accommodate temporary stoppages as determined appropriate by the Commissioner.

The clubs will switch ends at the 10:00 minute mark of the third period as signaled by a "hard whistle." The face off will take place where the play was whistled dead. This identical procedure will take place at the 2:30 minute mark of an overtime period, if needed.

In the event of a shootout, each club will determine what end they prefer to defend, which could be the same end.

If the game is started, then stopped permanently due to unplayable weather conditions, it will be deemed "official" once two periods have been played. The team leading at the time play is stopped will be declared the winner and will be awarded two points in the standings.

If the game is tied at the time play is stopped permanently, any time after two periods of play, each team will be awarded one point in the standings, with an opportunity to earn an additional point in a standard shootout format.

If weather conditions permit, the shootout will be conducted at Heinz Field immediately after regulation play has been stopped. If weather conditions make it impossible to conduct a shootout safely at Heinz Field, the shootout will take place at Verizon Center on Sunday, February 6 prior to the regularly scheduled Pittsburgh-Washington game.

If the game is started, and stopped permanently due to unplayable weather conditions, and fewer than two periods of regular time has been played, the game will be officially "postponed" and, if possible, will be played in its entirety at Heinz Field on Sunday, January 2, beginning at 12 p.m. (ET). If the game cannot be replayed at Heinz Field on January 2, it will be rescheduled at CONSOL Energy Center for a date to be determined later in the season.

Ticket holders must retain their tickets to gain re-entry to Heinz Field in the event the game is to be played Sunday, January 2. There will be no refunds for ticket holders unable to attend Sunday's postponement date. If the event is canceled on Sunday, a refund of the ticket's face value will be issued.

Caps in Pittsburgh Counting Down the Hours Until Classic

HM got to take in a bit of Caps practice yesterday, and you could sense the excitement in the air as the players prepared for their journey to Pittsburgh and their first appearance in NHL's Bridgestone Winter Classic. The boys worked on their struggling power play while wearing their WC red lids and star-spangled pants. Alex Ovechkin talked about the power play in an interview after practice and noted the significance of the game for both Washington and Pittsburgh. He surmised: "It's a big game for us and a bigger game for them. We just have to win - we have a good system and just have to play how we have and how we can play."

Meanwhile, you can catch a glimpse of Ovi's fancy skates for the big event over at DC Sports Bog. On Frozen Blog also takes a look into the sweat equity the Caps' equipment crew undertakes in getting everything ready for the big day (OFB also has a crew on the ground in da 'Burgh all weekend so they'll be providing lots of updates).

Other Winter Classic related links to peruse while we count down the hours:

  • The Examiner is hosting a Caps on Tap Winter Classic viewing party.
  • So much in the timing of the event is up in the air due to the rainy forecast for tomorrow but GMGM is confident that the show will go on (be it Saturday or Sunday).
  • Everything you wanted to know about the Winter Classic and then some from Japers.
  • What would a Caps/Pens matchup be without the ever present Sid/Ovi comparisons?
For all of you who travelled to Pittsburgh for the Classic, here's wishing you a rain-free Caps victory and to all of you out there, have a very happy and safe New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Capitals Raise More than $24,000 for Charity Through Happy Hockey Holiday Auction

Karie Erskine, wife of Capitals defenseman John Erskine talks to fans while they bid on their favorite basket at the Washington Capitals’ Happy Holiday Hockey Silent Auction Dec. 23 at Verizon Center.

Kudos to the Capitals and the team's Wives Club for raising $24,925 through their Happy Hockey Holiday Silent Auction on Dec. 23, at the game against Pittsburgh. All the money raised will benefit Washington Capitals Charities, which used the funds to adopt 25 local families for the holidays through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. The players’ wives and girlfriends went shopping for books, clothing and toys for the children while their parents or guardians received gift cards from local grocery stores and Target. In light of the struggling economy, Hockey Mom is sure that these gifts brought much-appreciated holiday cheer to so many families (especially the children) in need during this season.

Players’ wives created gift baskets with their husbands’ favorite items. Each basket included at least one autographed puck along with an autographed, game-used piece of equipment, with some baskets featuring two players’ items. Baskets were made for Bruce Boudreau, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Matt Bradley and Mike Knuble, Jason Chimera and David Steckel, John Erskine and Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr and Jeff Schultz, Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan and a special Winter Classic basket.

Fehr’s and Schultz’s basket – which included an autographed premier Winter Classic jersey signed by the 2010-11 team, a team signed Redskins football, an Under Armour Package, tickets to the Capitals game on Jan. 8 against the Florida Panthers, exclusive cooking class certificate at Culin Aerie, where Fehr and Schultz learned to cook, three free personal training session with William Sorrentino at Sport & Health Club and other items – raised the most money at $3,350. The Winter Classic basket went for $3,200, while Semin’s basket went for $3,100. All 11 baskets went for more than $1,000: Bradley and Knuble ($2,500), Ovechkin ($2,250), Erskine and Hendricks ($2,000), Backstrom ($1,950), Green ($1,850), Chimera and Steckel ($1,725), Boudreau ($1,500) and Poti and Sloan ($1,500).

Washington Capitals Charities
Created in 2000, Washington Capitals Charities is the nonprofit entity of the Washington Capitals. The Washington Capitals and Washington Capitals Charities are dedicated to the enhancement and development of the community that has supported them for so many years. Washington Capitals Charities offers unique resources and programs to other charities and organizations on behalf of the Washington Capitals.

The Angel Tree Program
The success of The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program depends on volunteers who agree to adopt and purchase gifts for an angel. For many of the families who turn to The Salvation Army for help, the toys and clothes they receive through the Angel Tree Program are the only gifts their children will have to open on Christmas morning. Last year, more than 20,724 individuals received emergency holiday assistance through the Angel Tree Program throughout the National Capital Area. Of that number, 5,266 children from 2,226 families were in the District. This year, The Salvation Army’s goal is to help a total of more than 25,000 individuals throughout the National Capital Area and they anticipate providing holiday assistance to more than 6,000 children through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program within the District.

Capitals Shut Out Habs in a Critical Win

Work, kids and other miscellaneous duties have kept Hockey Mom from the press box high in the rafters of the Verizon Center. Thanks to holiday vacation, I was able to witness the first meeting between the Capitals and the Habs since the latter so rudely bounced the former from the first round playoffs last season. One of the key differences between then and now is the absence of Montreal net minder Jaroslav Halak, who single-handedly gave the boys fits in the post-season. Carey Price now serves as number one in net for Montreal's finest.

Washington saw the return of Jeff Schultz after suffering a broken thumb, while Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johannson, Boyd Gordon and Tyler Sloan are still recovering from various bumps and bruises. The ultra confident young Canadiens defense man P.K. Subban was getting involved early and often, while the Caps saw stellar first period energy from the Chimera-Steckel-A. Gordon line. But it was a youngster from Hershey, Jay Beagle, who lit the lamp first for the home team with an absolutely spectacular doozie backhand at 16:20 of the opening period. The guys in stripes drew the ire of Caps faithful late in the first as they whistled off a puck that crossed behind Price as a no-goal. But Mike Green got the last word as he scored with less than 40 seconds left in the period, on a lovely shot he made as he fell to the ice. Shortly thereafter, Travis Moen got called for boarding, tempers flared and the Habs started the second period a man down. End of the first period: Caps 2 - Canadiens 0

One of the Habs best scoring chances came in the opening minutes of the second, but fell short as the stick of P.K. Subban broke mid-shot. Shortly after, Thomas Plekanec took a seat for slashing and the Caps power play went back to work (unsuccessfully to this point I might add, 0-4). Then the boys played a bit of 4-on-4 as Eric Fehr and Max Pacioretty both shuffled to the sin bin for roughing after an all-hands skirmish in the corners. Carey Price stifled several opportune chances by the Caps with consecutive snappy glove saves mid-air. The visitors were called for too many men with a little over seven minutes left, giving the Caps their fifth power play. Unfortunately, the boys continued to struggle on the power play and minutes later, Montreal found themselves a man up thanks to an Alex Semin signature hook. The penalty killers got it done and kept the Habs off the board. Despite not scoring any goals in the middle stanza, the boys gave a good effort with special props to Jay Beagle - who was here, there and everywhere with a few more chances of his own. End of the second period: Caps 2 - Canadiens 0

Thirty seconds into the final period, Montreal's Roman Hamrlik went to the box for slashing. The men in red still could not convert, making them 0-for-6 on the power play for the evening. Seconds later, HM is sure one of her boys was jumping up and down as P.K. Subban got wrecked by Johhny Erskine (the boy is not a fan of the smack talking Habs youngster). Erskine went to the box for interference. The Caps were the recipients of a four-minute power play when Thomas Plekanec took a high-stick to the face of Mike Green. Again, despite a few nice set ups from Ovi and company, the red light remained dark. And the boo birds came out in force in the third every time P.K. Subban touched the puck - new enemy number one, eh? Nah, I think that guy with the cheesy stache that we'll see in a few days still holds that special title but Subban is certainly not making any friends in the nation's capital.

Alex Ovechkin put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal with less than 32 seconds left and for tonight, a small slice of revenge was achieved (stick tap to Semyon Varlamov for an outstanding performance as well). Final Score - Capitals 3 - Habs 0

The mood was light in the locker room (though we didn't witness the fist pump dance) and Mike Green summed up his feelings on the significance of beating the Habs by saying how the team really took this game to heart. He said "they broke our hearts last summer and we all had to live with it for two or three months. You don't forget those things." In the coach's post-game presser, Gabby praised the efforts of the youngsters recently called up (high five to Jay Beagle for winning the hard hat) and admitted he has a hard task ahead of him in putting together Saturday's final roster against the Pens.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ovi Breaks Out of Goal Slump in Win Against the Canes

Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal in eight games last night in a highly-charged contest against the conference rival Carolina Hurricanes. The captain also netted a nice assist on David Steckel's second period goal.

Maybe they embibed in a bit too much holiday cheer, but both teams slogged through the first period with some sloppy play. But it was the Capitals who lit the lamp first, courtesy of the team's signature sparkplug, Mathieu Perreault. Matty P. certainly seems to have an innate sense for scoring opportunities and took advantage of a rebound to beat Cam Ward. Five minutes after celebrating his tally, Perreault was lying prone on the ice bleeding profusely from the nose after taking a brutal hit from Canes defenseman Tim Gleason. At some point during the collision, Perreault's visor apparently broke resulting in the cuts. Caps fans watched in dismay as one of the team's fan favorites was escorted off the ice. Also quickly becoming a fan fave, Matt Hendricks did not hesitate to come to Perreault's defense and retaliated against Gleason. The hit will be the topic of much conversation today as hockey fans and pundits speculate as to where there will be additional supplemental discipline doled out against Gleason. Puck Daddy believes the hit was clean and also disagrees with the lack of an instigator penalty for Hendricks. John Carlson also tweeted the "after" photo of MP85 - glad to see the spunky lad smiling after suffering a broken nose (stick tap to Alex Ovetjkin - love the Lil Ovi reference).

The boys come home to face the Canadiens tomorrow at Verizon and we all know what big event awaits them in a few days. HM got a text this morning from her father-in-law in Pittsburgh (we jokingly call him "Accuweather Storm Tracker" due to his fascination with tracking snow events), providing me with the latest New Year's Day forecast for the 2011 Winter Classic. Uh oh, this is not looking cool....time to start doing the snow dance now sports fans!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Hockey Holidays

On this Christmas Eve (and after an exciting edge-of-your-seat Caps/Pens game), Hockey Mom wants to wish all of you who celebrate a joyous holiday and much love to you and yours! I'll be back on the beat in a few days...enjoy the season!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mid Week Musings: Caps Getting Ready for First Showdown with Pens

The Caps appear to be back on track after their rousing defeat of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, which saw youngster Andrew Gordon net his first NHL goal. Gordon wasn't the only young gun aiding the offense, Jay Beagle and John Carlson also kicked in markers for the 5-1 win. Gordon was so pumped up about his goal, he planted a kiss on the cheek of fellow rookie Marcus Johansson! The win gave the boys an added confidence boost but unfortunately saw another player knocked out of action due to injury. Everyone's favorite grinder, Matt Bradley, suffered a broken thumb and will be sidelined from 2-4 weeks. Get well sooner than later Brads -  you will be missed...

And unless you've been hiding under a rock in fear of the holiday madness, every sports fan in D.C. knows that Sidney Crosby and his band of hooligans will be rolling into the Verizon Center tonight (every sound bite is sure to be well-documented for next week's episode of HBO's 24/7). As much as Caps fans love to hate this villain from the Dark Side (who's trying to do his best bad boy look with the growth of that pretty cheesy mustache), the guy is a work horse who's on a scoring roll. The Pens are coming off a big win against the Florida Panthers and "The Kid" matched the second longest NHL scoring streak in 18 years at 22 games with a first period goal. Peerless and Japers have more insight on tonight's rival game and Caps News Network gets thoughts from the players on the importance of this contest. Meanwhile, last night's 24/7 was another outstanding production, ending on a much lighter note than last week's episode (if you're a Caps fan) with the boys celebrating the end of the losing streak with a Jersey Shore fist pump dance in the locker room (everyone with the exception of the shy Nick Backstrom who needs some help from the "Situation" in the dancing department). HM is hoping the boys get to do some more fist-pumping after tonight's game - the Bog has the complete run down on episode two of 24/7.

HM is attending a holiday get-together with the boys tonight but was reassured prior to accepting the invitation that, yes, the game will be on during the soiree (it is Caps/Pens after all). As we count down the hours until puck drop, I leave you with some other news from around the rinks:

  • All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, a new hockey stick and a Rock' em Sock 'em video. On Frozen Blog talks about Christmases past with some of the Caps.
  • With the World Juniors tournament right around the corner, American Hero John Carlson reminisces on last year's GWG.
  • Please send bunches of prayers and positive thoughts to Yale player Mandi Schwartz as she continues her fight with cancer...
  • HM has had her fill of crazy hockey parents (and some folks may well lump me in that category at times) but this "hockey dad from hell " takes the cake (stick tap to Kukla). I've got three words for him: GET A LIFE...
Happy hockey everyone and Let's Go Caps!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Ovi CCM Commercial Appears to Feature HM's Cat

Huge stick tap to Greg Wyshinski (the uber-funny Puck Daddy himself) for sharing the latest installment of the Ovechkin CCM commercials - this one features a playful kitten that closely resembles HM's very own feline (who just happens to be named Gabby after, well you-know-who). As my own two hockey players sometimes spend wasteful time of their own surfing YouTube videos and such, you'd better believe HM will be passing on this message from Ovechkin's floating head! Enjoy - view video by clicking on the title within the video frame:

CCM's Alex Ovechkin vs. Silly Videos: Kittens from Greg Wyshynski on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, the boys get ready to face an angry New Jersey Devils team tonight looking to avenge a 7-1 loss. The Caps most likely will be without the services of Alex Semin and darn it all - Matt Hendricks when the puck drops tonight at 7 p.m. in the Phone Booth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rejoice with Holiday Cheer! Caps End Losing Streak with Win Over Sens

HM had a feeling in her gut that last night would be the night the Caps would break out of the dreadful losing streak - and lesson learned, don't mess with a woman's intuition. Of course the opening period sent many a Capitals fan into a tailspin as the Senators took a 2-0 lead, something we've seen a few too many times during the course of the slump.

Young spitfire Mathieu Perreault returned from his brief bout with the flu with a vengeance, scoring two of the Capitals' three tallies. And he did so from the nasty zone right in front of the net, something we haven't seen in quite some time (though Mike Knuble had a few scoring chances of his own in the nasty zone himself). Meanwhile, Eric Fehr, who was promoted to the top line along with #8 and #19, also had a stellar performance. Fehr had a goal of his own and the assist on the game winner that came in the second period. He also recorded a season high in shots with seven and also in ice time (16:56). The boys could not contain their jubilation at the final horn as they captured their first win since December 1. So Capitals fans can look forward to some happy television drama for a change when HBO's  24/7 airs this Wednesday.

We can only hope that this hard-fought-for win gives the boys back their confidence and that it carries over into tomorrow's contest against an injury-depleted Devils squad. New Jersey is coming off of a 7-1 "thrashing" at the hands of Atlanta and will be looking for redemption on a nationally televised stage.

A huge Hockey Mom stick tap to the Capitals for last night's efforts - now keep playing like the winners you are boys!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bruins Present Big Test for Slumping Capitals

Looking to break out of a losing streak that's been documented for even the non-hockey fan to see thanks to HBO's 24/7 series might be an even bigger challenge looking at the Capitals' next opponent - the bruising Boston Bruins at TD Bank Garden. The B's will be looking to bust out of their own three-game losing skid, the latest a loss to their uber-rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, which saw Boston center David Krejci drop the gloves against the Hab's Mike Camalleri in an unlikely bout. Boston leads the league with a 2.00 goals against average, which has been boosted by the return of Marc Savard - who had a goal and an assist against Montreal. The Caps will have to hope that Santa's elves return their missing offense if they have any hopes of beating super-hot Tim Thomas, who reigns atop all goaltenders with a .951 save percentage and 1.63 GAA. Keep your fingers crossed that tonight's results will keep next week's episode of 24/7 fairly family friendly in terms of the number of f-bombs flying from Bruce Boudreau's mouth (but again, it is hockey and not cricket sports fans). HM hopes to cover tonight's contest but the boys' late practice may prevent me from doing so - you can catch me over on Twitter.

Speaking of Gabby's profanity-laced locker room rant, his mom was none too pleased. Speaking of moms, the Globe and Mail's Roy MacGregor dishes on how NHL teams need to organize an annual mom's trip in addition to the traditional dad's trip, which is usually replete with golf and fishing. Right on mister!

Here are some other items for your leisurely Saturday over coffee perusal:

  • Congrats to big, bad John Erskine who signed a two-year extension with the Caps yesterday! The 30-year old defenseman with the magnificent mustache is having a stellar season with seven points (three goals, four assists) and 43 penalty minutes in 31 games for the Capitals so far. His three goals are a career high.
  • Mike Brophy speculates on what the (bleep) may be the keys to turning around the Capitals' losing streak.
  • OFB offers their opinion on a variety of asundry factors leading to the current situation.
  • Eric Duhatschek questions if there may be a lack of leadership in the room that may not be helping the Caps' confidence and motivation (and no, no one is pointing the fingers at Brooks Laich in this department for sure).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HBO's 24/7 Capitals/Penguins: Road to the Winter Classic a Hit with Hockey Fans

HM downed a one-pump, double shot Starbuck's mocha at 7 p.m. last night in an effort to stay awake for the debut of HBO's HBO's 24/7 Capitals/Penguins Road to the Winter Classic (yes folks, anything after the 10 p.m. hour is past my bedtime during the work week). It was well worth it and I am already looking forward to the next "episode" airing next Wednesday - and hoping the Capitals have better results to document. Despite the disparity between the Caps' current losing streak and the Penguins' winning streak (which was broken this week by their bitter rivals down the road in Philly), the show provides an entertaining and fascinating look behind the scenes.

I always wonder what Gabby says in between periods in the locker room, especially when the boys aren't performing up to snuff. Well, sports fans got the real deal last night as they witnessed several of Boudreau's frustrated rants with an f-bomb inserted about every other word. Yep, hide yo wife, hide yo husband and definitely hide yo kids as Gabby's cussing everybody out up in here!

We also got to see a bit of Alex Ovechkin's wit (and yes, Sidney Crosby comes off as plain as vanilla) as he argued with a ref after his BFF Alex Semin got tossed for his cross-check on Colorado's John-Michael Liles. When debating whether or not Liles was bleeding as a result of the high stick to the head, AO retorted to the ref "Well, maybe he just has sensitive skin." Priceless..

Here are a few other takes on last night's debut from Off Wing Opinion and Puckhead's Thoughts. I personally loved it and if you don't have HBO, get on the phone to your local cable provider today!

Caps Drop Seventh Straight Despite Improved Effort

The Capitals returned to Verizon Center with their sights set on reversing the disturbing losing streak in front of their home crowd last night. And despite a much improved effort in shots, defense and the fact that they pretty much held the Duck’s dangerous Perry-Getlzaf-Ryan line in check for the evening (thanks to Matt Bradley, David Steckel and the man of the hour, Brooks Laich), the boys came “this close” but left the ice with their seventh consecutive loss.

Brooks Laich was very vocal this week about his feelings on the Capitals recent struggles. Laich wears his heart on his sleeve and his determination to win and frustration with losing (especially as a result of poor effort) are nothing new to the Caps faithful (many who feel that he should have been awarded the ‘C’). Last night, Laich put his words in action and scored the Caps first goal – a gritty, butt in the crease tally, with help from John Carlson and Nick Backstrom, late in the first period. He had another stellar opportunity that came millimeters from crossing the line before it was swiped away at the literally the last second by Ryan Getzlaf.

Later in the frame, the boys got their first chance on the power play from a Saku Koivu hook. They were unable to convert but outshot the Ducks 17-7 in the opening stanza.

Five minutes into the second period, Ovi had a sweet breakaway opportunity but the blasted crossbar (which has been the thorn in the side of Capitals players in the last few games) got in the way once again.

Later, the Caps had another excellent scoring opportunity on a fabulous tic-tac-toe play set up by Mike Knuble and Nick Backstrom (which started with Mike Green) but they were stonewalled by an even more spectacular stop by Ducks net minder Jonas Hiller.

With 7:52 left in second, Mike Knuble took a seat for tripping Sheldon Brookbank, giving the Ducks their first man advantage. Joffrey Lupul tied the game at 1- 1 with a goal scored from right in front of the crease.

The tight game went into overtime and HM found herself holding her breath in hopes that the streak would be broken without having to rely on a shootout. But it was the Ducks emerging with the victory when Ryan Getzlaf evaded the coverage of John Carlson and using Scott Hannan as his screen, flipped the puck over Varly's right side for the 2-1 win.

The boys now have to reiterate the positives from last night keep their chins up and prepare for their next challenge against the bruising Bruins on Saturday. This too shall pass…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spotlight on Caps: 12/15/10

The bright lights will be on the Washington Capitals tonight in more ways than one. First, a home game against the rough and tumble Anaheim Ducks, who are coming off a commanding win against the Minnesota Wild. The Caps have got to be feeling the pressure of finding a way to reverse this maddening losing streak of late - and fast! The Ducks may be without vet Teemu Selanne and they are also missing Aaron Voros, who has a fractured orbital bone he received in a fight with Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa - ouch. Corey Perry leads the team in offensive stats, with 16 goals under his belt including his first career hat trick on Sunday against the Wild. Caps rookie defenseman will be facing fellow youngster Cam Fowler across the ice. Fowler and Carlson are the top two rookies in terms of ice time (Carlson with 26:07 and Fowler with 22:12) Meanwhile, the Caps are apparently still battling illness as Alex Semin is questionable for tonight and the team has called up both Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle from the farm. There's no question the spotlight is glaring on the Caps to quickly reverse the current skid, with some even calling for relieving Gabby of his post. The level-headed former Redskin Lavar Arrington says not so fast - here's his take on the Capitals current situation. Let's walk away with the much-needed win tonight boys!

The other spotlight on the Caps will be in the form of stagelights, as tonight is the much hyped debut of HBO's 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic. For the first time, sports lovers will get an upclose and personal look inside the locker rooms, personal lives, training regimens and game day experiences of NHL players, coaches and operations staffs. Be forewarned and make sure the kiddies are in bed (they darn well should be at 10 p.m.) as I've heard the language will be a bit 'salty' to say the least. Puck Daddy has even come up with a very funny drinking game (for those of you over 21 and confined to the safety of your homes of course) to add to your viewing enjoyment of HBO's behind-the-scenes look at two of the most dominant teams in the NHL (and need I add, most bitter rivals).  It's pretty doggone cold out there - the perfect night to hunker down for an evening of hockey entertainment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Caps' Slump Turns into Freefall in 7-0 Loss to Rangers

HM is sure she echoes the sentiments of many Caps fans when asked to describe her thoughts on the recent losing streak, which reached "rock bottom" status after last night's blowout at the hands of the New York Rangers. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you this doesn't happen often, but honestly: I have no words - I am truly at a loss to attempt any rational explanation for what has happened to this hockey team we all know and love in recent weeks. Russian Machine Never Breaks is obviously feeling the same, and in addition to a list of possible "excuses" for the pitiful play of late, they've decided to stop posting until this fugly streak is reversed.

Many fans are calling for Gabby's head, saying that maybe he's lost the room. As much as I love the jovial coach, part of that may be true. But a large part also lies in the hands of the players - particularly some of our "stars" - who at times have looked as discombobulated as a Learn to Play House league kid. With the exception of a few work horses, (Matt Hendricks comes first and foremost to my mind) they don't seem to know (or desire) to play with that "piss and vinegar" (forgive my language here but it is what it is) fire under their bums that wins games by sheer grit and determination (because we all know they have the talent for crying out loud). So in light of my loss for words, here are some other takes on the current situation from Peerless, Puckhead's Thoughts, Ed Frankovic, OFB, and Corey Masisak from CSN.

In case you missed it (and count your lucky stars if you did), one of the few highlights on the night was Ovechkin dropping the mitts with Brandon Dubinsky:

The boys are sure to face a few very rough days of practice these next few days as they prepare to face the down and dirty Ducks on Wednesday. The Anaheim Ducks lit up the Minnesota Wild last night in a 6-2 win and Corey Perry netted his first career hat trick. Meanwhile, his stacked line which includes Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan contributed six goals and 11 points for the win. Time to reflect and regroup now Caps - this schedule is only going to get tougher in the days and weeks to come....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Caps Drop Fifth Straight Game in Loss to Avalanche in Hard-Hitting Affair

Last night's loss was a bummer but HM walked away (as I hope did many fans) with a renewed sense of optimism. While many were clamoring that it may be time to hit the 'panic button' after the lethargical losses to Atlanta, Toronto and Florida, last night saw a Capitals team playing with the energy and sit-your-rear-in-front of the net type of shots they've been missing thus far in this losing streak. Speaking of 'panic buttons' I have to digress and relate a pretty funny experience from a local high school hockey game I attended on Friday night. I'm sure you are all familiar with Staples big red "Easy" button they feature in their ads. Well, the rowdy high school hockey fans for the team I went to watch had crafted a huge "Easy button" of their own on a ginormous piece of poster board which they held pressed up to the glass. Whenever one of their players scored (which they did quite frequently, 7 times I believe, including a hat trick) the spirited students held up the sign and the scorer skated over and high-fived the "Easy button". HM thought that was a pretty cool idea and was so excited to see so many fans get involved in high school hockey, even though it is a club sport in these here parts.

Back to the Capitals. First the positives on the evening:

  • Big props to Mike Knuble (who was one of the guys called out by Gabby after the loss to the Panthers) on netting the 250th goal of his career and breaking out of his own little slump with a goal and an assist!
  • I'm liking the grit the boys have shown this season (Matt Hendricks has helped out greatly in that regard). It was the other Matt (Bradley) dropping the mitts for the guys in red last night.
  • Lots of hits against a young but physical Colorado defense. The Great8 was doing his typical bull in a china shop imitation and led the team with five.
  • Crashing the net. Crashing the net. Crashing the net. How many times do you think they've heard that from the coaching staff this week? The boys did a much better job of getting in front of the crease and Matt Hendrick's third period power play goal was a perfect example (and he scored with a backwards between the legs shot while screening former team mate Craig Anderson no less).
  • Stellar third period effort. The boys outshot the Avs 17-5 in the final period and it seemed like every guy in a red sweater had the sense of urgency that we see on a nightly basis from fan fave Matty Perreault.
Now for the bad. I'm sure everyone will agree with me when I award the Bonehead Play of the Game award to Sasha Semin. Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles got under Semin's skin at 6:07 of the second period and Semin proceeded to cross-check his opponent in the head. His hot-headed actions drew a five-minute major, his tossing for a game misconduct and led to a Colorado power play goal.

Of course, the other not-so-positive note is that the loss marks the first time they've lost five in a row while under bench boss Bruce Boudreau. The team travels up to the Big Apple today to take on the New York Rangers in what is always a chippy contest. See you a 7 p.m. for that one...

In other on-ice action today, former Capitals Alan May and Peter Bondra will be on hand at the Reston Town Center Skating Pavilion to host the Mites on Ice Outdoor Classic from 8 a.m. - noon.

The event will start out with a series of cross-ice hockey games featuring mini mite teams from around the area. This is the second outdoor event the Washington Capitals have taken part in this week as the buildup continues for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in Pittsburgh.

Following the mini mite games Bondra and  May will hold a brief skills demonstration where fans will be able to go on the ice and learn to shoot from the Caps alumni. After the skills demonstration the skating pavilion will provide a two-hour public skate at a discounted rate from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bondra and May will be in attendance during the skate to interact with fans. Throughout the skate the Red Rockers and Slapshot will hand out giveaways and provide entertainment. The rink does have an open air cover so the event will take place rain or shine (and unfortunately kiddos, looks like cold rain so bundle up and have fun)!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Caps Lose Fourth Consecutive Game to Panthers; Avalanche Awaits

Any holiday cheer that was ringing through the Phone Booth last night was eventually hampered by the Capitals' fourth loss to a Florida Panthers team that sits 13 points below Washington in the Southleast Conference standings. Despite the early Santa gift of eight - yes, eight - power play opportunities, the Capitals laid a goose egg in the 3-0 loss. Though credit should be given to Florida's penalty kill efforts for stifling the talented Washington offense, the Capitals power play was horrendous and many fans expressed their frustration by booing the team (which HM thinks is in pretty poor form, but that's a whole other blog post). We've seen this before - the Capitals doing too much "cute" passing and not enough shooting - during the power play and the results were nilch, even with a few golden 5-on-3 opportunities handed their way.

While Semyon Varlamov had a more than his share of splendid saves, it was Tomas Vokoun on the other side of the ice stealing the show with 36 saves to his credit.

Gabby tempered the anger he must have undoubtedly been feeling in the post-game presser but did call out his top players for their offensive struggles of late. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Nick Backstrom and Mike Knuble were all mentioned - though the string of losses certainly falls on the team as a whole. While fans don't want to see their team in a funk at any point, this streak seems to be coming at a particularly bad time as the hockey world's eyes will be on the Washington/Pittsburgh rivalry in the days leading up to the Winter Classic and its' accompanying hullabaloo. And wouldn't you know it, the Pens' stock is through the roof right now. Sidney Crosby has led his team to 11 consecutive wins and sits atop league leaders in both points (50) and goals (26). While we all know that this losing streak would be much worse if it occurred in say, February or March, the troubling thing is the way the boys are losing and the opponents who are beating them. Maybe the HBO cameras and all the hype are causing some uneeded distraction, but the time to right this ship and focus on winning is NOW - especially with all the pieces finally in place.

HM will have the game day preview of the Colorado Avalanche later, but for now I leave you with this rather gross image of Ottawa's Matt Carkner possibly flicking blood towards the New York Rangers bench. If this is indeed what happened, HM thinks she's pretty much seen it all and this guy needs to be reprimanded for sure:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Author of Hockey & High Heels Debuts New Book

In my wonderful experience of following hockey (and my second favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks), I've had the priviledge to collaborate with author Lisa Ovens on several projects. This die-hard Canucks fan has travelled from her home in Vancouver across North America to research the game she so loves, with a special focus on the booming demographic that is the female NHL fan.

Her new book, For the Love of Empty Net Goals, debuts right in time for the holidays and makes a perfect gift for the female hockey fan on your list. Lisa documents her passion for the puck and the adventures that ensue with a refreshing wit and from a fresh female perspective. One of the coolest features of her latest book is a special supplement dedicated to women in hockey - which includes a timeline listing fun facts from women in the hockey media and blogosphere (including Yours Truly along with my pal DC Sports Chick from On Frozen Blog); the league's marketing efforts towards the female fan, the launch of the very first NHL female fan club (the Washington Capitals' Club Scarlet) and much more!

One of my favorite passages from the book sums up my view of the game just perfectly and comes from the authors' beloved late mom:

Lisa's Mom: As we get older, the numbers and stats are easier to forget. It's the feeling of joy from the game that lasts a lifetime. And I just love that.'

Stop on over to the Hockey & High Heels Web site to read an excerpt and order your copy just in time for the holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Caps Fall to Leafs in 5-4 Shoot Out Loss

Bruce Boudreau pinned much of the boys' loss to Atlanta this weekend on the quantity of shots taken from in front of the net - the down and dirty zone. The Caps skated into the Phone Booth tonight looking to put the brakes on a losing skid of late by defeating the struggling Maple Leafs in front of the home crowd.

There was a familiar face donning the holiday red this evening as Mathieu Perreault got the call to come on up from Chocolatetown for a spell (hopefully for good). The energetic center may have come in to the meeting late, but he certainly got the jist of what Gabby was preaching. He lit the lamp for the Caps early on from right in front of Jonas Gustavsson's net, with help from pals Tom Poti and Alex Semin. One thing's for sure when Ron Wilson's team comes to town, they always have a chip on their shoulder (and that's without the added snarl factor of their captain Dion Phaneuf, still sidelined after being cut in the leg in a game against Ottawa). The first period was a hard-hitting affair and a determined Clarke MacArthur tallied for the visitors at the 11:47 mark. But the Caps played through the hard-hitting truculence of the kids in white and blue and Mike Knuble took advantage of a rebound for a power play goal and the lead at 14:58. End of first period: Capitals 2 - Leafs 1

The boys carried their signature game into the second period, which opened with a splendid save by Michal Neuvirth against a wide open Tyler Bozak. Young Perreault was on fire, netting his second of the game off a feed from Brooks Laich (as team mate Alex Semin paid the price, getting hammered in front of the net by Mike Komisarek). Matty contributed a nifty hit or two on the night as well, cementing his case for a permanent move to the nation's capital. Meanwhile, Tom Poti had quite the first two periods of his own, chipping in three assists. Alex Ovechkin kept the fire burning by giving the Caps a three-goal lead with a blistering wrist shot that blew by the helpless Monster. Minutes before the captain lit up the Leafs net minder, Toronto enforcer Colton Orr took a few cheap shots at Ovi which was duly noted by DJ King. King went to work dropping the mitts with Orr in a heavyweight rumble. Ovi expressed his appreciation to the big guy by tapping the window of the sin bin after netting his lovely goal. End of second period: Capitals 4 - Leafs 1

The resilient Leafs always put up a good fight and cut the Capital's lead to 2 when Mikhail Grabovski scored with 15 minutes left in the final period. Mathieu Perreault continued to shine, sliding a perfect pass to Alex Semin midway through the final stanza - unfortunately, Sasha clanked it off the post. There were a few hairy moments at around the ten-minute point, as the Leafs went on the man-advantage and the boys and Neuvy were having a time getting the puck out of the zone. The Leafs refused to give up and  celebrated a late goal by Tim Brent. As the final minute and a half ticked off the clock and the Monster headed to the Leafs' bench, Clarke MacArthur faked out Neuvy to tie the game. Once again, the boys gave up a commanding lead and we were headed into another nailbiter OT. 

During the overtime period, Michal Neuvirth had to stand on his head and made several crucial stops against Grabovski and the dangerous Phil Kessel. Neither team got it done and this game was headed to the shoot out. Mikhail Grabovsky tricked out Neuvy with a fancy spin-o-rama move to put the Leafs on the board. Despite some lovely dekes and dangles by Matty Perreault and Alex Semin, the Leafs won the shoot out by the skin of their teeth and the Caps' trend of not holding a lead is becoming cause for concern. In any case, a huge Hockey Mom high five to Mathieu Perreault for his huge contributions this evening! Hope you're here to stay for awhile....

And before I sign off, I leave you with visions of Capitals and cute-as-a-button kids at yesterday's event at the Sculpture Garden, courtesy of Russian Machine Never Breaks. Not only does rookie defenseman John Carlson lead the pack of all NHL rookies with 22:14 average ice time, but he also takes the most adorable pictures with the youngest of Caps fans.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December Full of Festive Dates for Caps Fans

As our schedules fill up with Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, December brings even more dates for hockey holiday cheer - especially for those of us who rock the same color as that guy with the sleigh and flying reindeer. The Capitals will get into the spirit of the season this Sunday, December 5, when several players skate outside at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink for Community Day.  The Community Day event kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with free hot chocolate to beat the chill and art stations set up for youngsters to show off their inner Picasso. At 11 a.m, Karl Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Marcus Johansson will join assistant coach Dean Evason and Slapshot on the ice with the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink School skaters for a skills exhibition. They will start by incorporating the surrounding art into their skills, then transition to a hockey demonstration focusing on stickhandling, passing, agility and speed.

At noon, after the zamboni cut, the Caps players and Slapshot will take to the ice again to skate with the fans. The first 200 fans in line will receive free admission with $3.00 skate rentals for an hour-long open skate. If you have your own skates and are one of the first 200 people in line, you’ll skate for free! What a great way to get your hockey fix and enjoy the holiday scenery at the scenic Sculpture Gardens!

Of course December also starts the countdown to the Capitals' other outdoor event: The 2011 NHL Winter Classic. The league has an abundance of events planned during the month to build the buzz and excitement for what's become a New Year's Day tradition for most hockey fans.

In anticipation of the Jan. 1 game, here are some of the dates fans can take note of and add to their already stuffed-like-a-holiday-turkey calendars:

· Dec. 2: The January 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, which includes a spotlight on Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and their face-off at the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles Thursday, December 2, and nationwide on Tuesday, December 7. Famed photographer Bruce Weber shot Crosby and Ovechkin for the magazine and, which will feature behind-the-scenes video of the shoot, additional photos and a special Q&A with Crosby on Monday, December 6.

· Dec. 3: The first recipe in a series of NHL Winter Classic-themed recipes created by Food Network star and hockey fan Duff Goldman debuts at The recipe series will help fans tailgating at Heinz Field or watching the live broadcast at home on New Year’s Day celebrate the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic tradition.

· Dec. 5: The special 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic commercial premieres during NBC’s national “Sunday Night Football” broadcast as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

· Dec. 10: “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” billboard unveiled in New York City’s Times Square at the busy 42nd St. and Broadway corner.

· Dec. 15: “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” highlighting the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals and their preparation for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, premieres at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.

· Dec. 22: Episode 2 of “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” airs at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.

· Dec. 23: In their first meeting of the season, the Penguins and Capitals face off at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., broadcast nationally, live on the NHL Network for fans outside of Pittsburgh and Washington.

· Dec. 23: Following the Carolina Panthers v. Pittsburgh Steelers game, the rink build for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic officially begins at Heinz Field and the official time lapse camera coverage begins on

· Dec. 24: The world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit – the custom-built 53-foot truck that houses the specialized equipment that will be used to make the rink for the NHL Winter Classic – arrives at Heinz Field; beginning Dec. 24, fans can follow the entire rink-build process through interactive features and extensive coverage on, NHL Radio and the NHL Network.

· Dec. 29: Episode 3 of “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” airs at 10 p.m. ET / PT on HBO.

· Dec. 31: Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals skate at Heinz Field for the first time for team practices.

· Dec. 31: The NHL will install a “NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom” at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom is a philanthropic partnership with The Companion’s in Courage Foundation and NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine. The NHL Winter Classic Legacy Classroom will be an interactive playroom utilizing innovative communications tools (Cisco WebX and UMI, SMART Tables, SMART Boards, Flat panel televisions, etc). This classroom will replace the isolation of a hospital with a connection to family, friends and celebrities during each hospital stay. During the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, some of the game’s youngest fans with have the ability to connect with activities and players.

As the song goes, "it's the most wonderful time of the year"... happy hockey holidays everyone.