Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hockey Mom Hangs Up the Skates

Well sports fans, I've proscrastinated as long as possible but HM has had to come to the difficult decision to hang up the skates. I'm hanging the "Closed" shingle out on Musings of a Hockey Mom after almost four fabulous seasons covering the Capitals and youth hockey. For those of you who've followed me along this journey (I am sending you all great big virtual thank you hugs right now), you know that I'm a single working mom of teenage twin boys - who travel far and wide with hockey, lacrosse and now golf. As the much as I loved this blog and the outlet it's provided, several realizations hit me over the course of this season, the main one being that unfortunately, I no longer have the time to dedicate to provide the type and frequency of posts that I feel Caps fans deserve. The second realization (in addition to increased responsibilities at my full-time job and adding one more sport to the mix in golf), is that the aforementioned boys are starting high school this fall. When they say kids grow up fast, believe it - I cannot comprehend that I only have four more years with the boys in the house :(  That said, I want to spend as much time as I can with them because I'm sure it will fly by.

So it's with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye. My passion for the Capitals and this blog has taken me places I never thought I'd go and actually helped me get through some tough times in my personal life. I'd like to think my blog provided a unique (and snarky) voice amongst the many who do such an outstanding job in covering our beloved Capitals. During my time in the press box, I've met so many wonderful people and have become fast friends with many including the gang at On Frozen Blog, Storming the Crease, Homer McFanboy, Capitals News Network, Ed Frankovic, Caps Girl and so many others who I will miss seeing on game nights. And countless thanks to Japers Rink for the link love over the years as well. Through my involvement with Scarlet Caps, I've met so many awesome women whose passion for the Capitals and the NHL is contagious.

In addition to my awesome readers, I also owe the growth of this blog and the opportunities it presented to the Capitals organization, starting with Ted Leonsis. I also want to send a heartfelt thanks to former Caps Communications guru Nate Ewell as well as Paul Rovnak, Kelly Murray and Sergey Kocharov for all of their assistance and support. I'd also like to thank the Caps' marketing staff for letting me share my love for the game as an integral part of their women's initiative.

I hope that someday soon, I'll be able to see the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup (meanwhile, am rooting for my second team, the Canucks this year). I've loved every minute and every pixel that went into Musings of a Hockey Mom and I will always adore this team. But now I'll be watching from the stands and waving to my pals up high in the press box. So as I ride my zamboni into the sunset, I thank you all again for your patronage and if you see me at a game, the rink or the yoga studio (I have to have some stress relief with twin boys in high school, right), be sure to say hi!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Another Heartbreaking Early Exit for the Washington Capitals

It's happened again. This team, loaded with more talent than it knows what to do with, got run out of the second round of the playoffs, quicker than this hockey mom can bandage a boo boo. Speaking of boo boos, everyone in Caps nation is feeling that old, sinking feeling in their hearts today after another stunning exit. The boys simply did not show up - especially those "young guns" - who get paid the big bucks to do just that.

Stanley Cups are won by a combination of talent, luck, team work, work ethic and probably most important of all - heart. The Lightning had much less offensive talent (and were missing a big key in the cog with the injury of Simon Gagne) but their heart and soul guys Sean Bergenheim and the pesty Steve Downie came up big when it mattered. Guy Boucher totally outcoached the affable Gabby and the Bolt's stars Lecavalier, Stamkos and St. Louis were game killers. So after a second season of finishing number one in the East and not getting to Conference Finals, what to do?  Here are some of my thoughts (just a thought, not a sermon folks):

  • Unfortunately, I think Bruce Boudreau's stint as bench boss should come to an end. They need a hardass in there who scoffs at the mere thought of an "optional" skate. Yes, Gabby was successful in transitioning the game plan to a more defensive style of play, but he apparently lost their attention as that plan went out the window in the Tampa series.
  • Alex Semin too - he's proved time and time again that he is ineffective in  post-season play.
  • Young guns: No more pictures of you partying all over D.C. during the season- agree wholeheartedly with PucksandBooks of On Frozen Blog who touched on this earlier- if you're seen out the night before a game, bag skate.
    Yes, Sidney Crosby might be a total nerd who stays home with his milk and cookies but in the playoffs (when he's healthy and all hockey fans hope that is soon), he schools opponents. Plain and simple.
  • On aforementioned note, more bag skates in general.
  • Ovi should not be the captain. I said it when they gave him the 'C' and say it again. Just because he is one of the most elite talents in the world, does not mean he is the guy to hold fellow players accountable for not stepping up. I hope that in the aftermath of yet another post-season undoing, the team can manage to hold onto Jason Arnott - who would be the perfect guy to wear the "C", or Mike Knuble.
Here are some other thoughts on the aftermath  from some of the Caps most recognized scribes: Tarik El Bashir, Stephen Whyno, Homer McFanboy  and of course, the boss himself.

I'm sure you're with me when I say I'm pretty tired of hearing "wait til next year".....

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Lightning Strikes Down Caps in Game Two

    After a lackluster performance resulting in a Game One loss (despite the fact that Tampa Bay suffered the loss of Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina during the course of the game), the Capitals got a chance to even the series on home ice last night.

    The offense was bolstered by the return of Mike Knuble to the lineup and fans hoped to see the net-crashing action that was amiss Friday night. Apparently John Carlson was questionable after getting dinged up in Game One, but the defensive dynamo was ready and raring to go. The Caps came out with much more energy than we saw in Game One but the floundering power play continued to plague them. The first period alone saw three consecutive power plays for the home team, of which they converted zero. Despite outshooting the Bolts 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes, the Caps could not permeate the crease of grizzly old timer Dwayne Roloson. Roly the goalie, in his elderly state, proves to be as nimble as kids half his age and kept the Caps off the board in the first. It was a penalty-filled affair, including several missed calls. Martin St. Louis, who’s already lost three pearly whites thus far these playoffs, was again hit right in the choppers. The speedy right-winger helped get his team on the board first at 19:01, with a sweet pass to captain Vinny Lecavalier, whose slap shot earned the Bolts a power play goal.

    End of first period: Lightning 1 – Capitals 0

    The Caps had a few prime opportunities in the second period, including shot that went wide, attempted by Marco Sturm as he took advantage on a breakaway. His mates continued to go hard to the net though and their efforts paid off at 14:52. St. Louis failed to clear the puck and John Erskine redirected it to a waiting Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom, who has yet to score a goal of his own these playoffs, got the puck to Brooks Laich who beat a solid Roloson to tie the game. The Caps continued to pour the pressure on Roloson, directing 11 shots his way as Neuvirth only faced three from the Bolts.

    End of second period: Capitals 1 – Lightning 1

    The third period saw another swing in the Bolts’ favor at the 7:35 mark as St. Louis flipped the puck across the net, and Mike Green was in the right place at the wrong time. As Green tried to ensure nothing went into the Caps' net, St. Louis's shot deflected off of Green's skate to give Tampa Bay the lead.

    At 8:32, Green found himself again at the center of attention as he went to hit Steven Stamkos and raised his elbow. The nasty impact resulted in a roughing call against Green. Meanwhile, Stamkos ans crew had the better chances in the third period, outshooting the Caps 11 to 5.

    Gabby made the decision to pull Neuvirth with 1:43 left in the final frame and Alex Ovechkin took a feed from Jason Arnott and crashed the net, scoring to tie the game with 1:07 left on the clock.

    The crowd unleashed the fury once again as this one was headed into a nail-biting OT.

    As sloppy as the Caps were at many points during this contest, it was the sloppiness of a poorly timed line change that proved to be their undoing. While Caps players were scrambling for the change, Vinny Lecavalier went top shelf off a wide pass from Teddy Purcell to give the Bolts the win and their fifth road victory in a row (as Jeff Schultz totally missed his coverage doing his best scarecrow imitation).

    Final Score: Lightning 3 - Capitals 2

    Now the Caps are down 2 games in the series and have lots of making up to do - starting Tuesday night in balmy Florida.

    Here are some other takes on the loss from Caps News Network, Japers Rink, CBC and Capitals Insider.

    As disappointing as this loss was, the mood in the nation’s capital changed from frustration to jubilation as shortly after the game, the news of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces was announced. On Frozen Blog has some commentary on the contrast, while RMNB has photos of Caps fans joining the celebration in front of the White House.

    This news certainly brings the playoffs (and really, sports in general) into perspective as in light of this historic event, we remember those who’ve lost their lives – both military and civilians- as a result of 9/11 and other terrorist acts across the world.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Round Two of the Quest Starts Tomorrow

    After a week of rest and watching their fellow Eastern Conference teams battle it down to the wire, the Capitals will be itching to hit the ice tomorrow against a familiar foe - the Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL released the schedule for Round Two late last night after the Habs/Bruins and Pens/Lightning games wound up. Here goes, folks:

    Friday, April 29, 2011 7 p.m. TB Lightning at Washington VERSUS, TSN

    Sunday, May 1, 2011 7 p.m. TB Lightning at Washington VERSUS, CBC
    Tuesday, May 3, 2011 TBD Washington at TB Lightning CSN, VERSUS, TSN
    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 7 p.m. Washington at TB Lightning CSN, TSN
    *Saturday, May 7, 2011 12:30 p.m. TB Lightning at Washington NBC, TSN
    *Monday, May 9, 2011 TBD Washington at TB Lightning CSN, VERSUS, TSN
    *Wednesday, May 11, 2011 TBD TB Lightning at Washington CSN, VERSUS, TSN

    The Lightning held their own against a Penguins team that has suffered offensively since losing Crosby and Malkin. The Penguins' faithful actually booed their own team's pitiful power play last night - poor form people, obviously those fans have not read the Blonde Girls' Guide to fandom. Never.Boo.Your.Team....

    Nonetheless, the Pens are toast and we can look forward to more colorful conversation between Bolts bad boy Steve Downie and Caps hero in residence Matt Hendricks. Steven Stamkos has regained his scoring touch, notching seven playoff points, while the pocket-sized but dangerous Martin St. Louis was just named a finalist for the NHL's Hart MVP Trophy. Sean Bergenheim has netted three goals thus far this playoffs, while the Pens series saw the first ever playoff tally from agitator Downie. Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson (who at the ripe old age of 41, must be taking his vitamins indeed) earned the shut out last night and boasts a .949 save percentage. You'll recall the old man gave the Capitals fits earlier this season. Familiar indeed, but certainly not an opponent the Caps can take lightly as they learned during the regular season.

    The Caps hope to see the return of both Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman at some point in the series, but though both guys have been participating in practice, that remains to be seen. Get ready for Round Two action - a little more than 24 hours away!

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Capitals Head for Round Two with Solid Win over Rangers

    Caps fans welcomed the boys home to Verizon Center with a sea of red and chants of “We are louder” as they cheered the Capitals on in a potential close out Game Five.

    The Rangers opened the contest with their thug line of Avery, Prust and Boyle against top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and the always dashing Brooks Laich, who was tapped to replace the still ailing Mike Knuble. Dan Girardi blocked a sizzler from Marco Sturm as the Rags tried to elude an onslaught of shots by the Capitals in the first five minutes of the opening period.

    Green scored  a power play goal from a wide angle at 5:59 as Dan Girardi slid into New Yorks goal crease to try and deflect yet another shot in a brave effort to help his goaltender out. After the goal, the pesky Brandon Dubinsky started an all-out melee in front of the net. Ovi and Arnott were on the side of the ice hugging in celebration, but quickly sped over to help out their mates in the line brawl. Penalties were doled out to Semin and Laich for the Caps and Drury and Dubinsky for New York. Vinny Prospal joined his fellow Blueshirts in the bin after he decided to mouth off to an official and drew a bench minor.

    At around the six minute mark, Mike Green courageously laid out the body to block a shot from Matt Gilroy and appeared to take a puck in the head (screws from his helmet went flying on impact) – eerily reminiscent of the injury he suffered against the Pens in February that kept him sidelined for so long. Both Girardi and Green emulated the intensity that is the NHL playoffs – sacrificing the body and playing through injury for the ultimate goal. Green went off to the dressing room while Girardi (who went missing after the mid-period scrum) returned to New York’s bench with about a minute left in the opening period. Meanwhile, Marc Staal’s frustrations of being unable to contain the Caps (shots were flying from everywhere, though not making the net), were evident as he threw Matt Hendricks into the side of the net after a whistle. The Caps directed 13 shots at Lundqvist while Neuvirth stopped all six from New York.
    End of First Period: Capitals 1 – Rangers 0

    At 7:04 of the second period, Alex Ovechkin blew by the Rangers' defense (specifically Marc Staal) to net an absolutely lovely backhanded goal, sure to make highlight reels on sportscasts across North America. The Rangers’ frustration reached the boiling point as Brandon Prust made a late hit on big John Erskine less than a minute after Ovi’s goal. The Caps were not able to convert on the man advantage.

    It was the home team down a man at the ten-minute marker when Matt Bradley got whistled for interference. The penalty unit took care of business but things got ugly in front of Michal Neuvirth. After the whistle, uber-pest Sean Avery took a blatant slash on Neuvy’s hand prompting Brooks Laich to step in. In the ensuing scrum, Avery ripped off his glove and yipped at the ref “He bit me” when we all really know he just wanted to show off his freshly lacquered playoff nails. John Erskine took the second Capitals penalty when he annihilated Brandon Prust in the corner and was slapped with interference. The great news is that Mike Green returned to the Caps bench towards the end of the period, even though he saw no action.
    End of Second Period: Capitals 2 – Rangers 0

    The Caps continued to do a good job of keeping New York hemmed in their zone during the final period as they held onto a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes separating them from advancing to the second round. The Rangers did have a few odd break outs with Brian Boyle and Erik Christensen having the best scoring chances that were absolutely stonewalled by Michal Neuvirth. Neuvy has been stellar and came into the game having played the second-most minutes among goaltenders in the playoffs (289:11).

    It was Alex Semin who stuck the fork in the visitors and added the insurance the boys needed to go forward. His line mate Marcus Johansson evaded Dan Girardi and Semin picked up MoJo’s cross-ice pass and proceeded to roof it over Lundqvist, sending an already jubilant Verizon Center crowd into a frenzy. With their playoff hopes quickly fading and their goal tender on the bench for the extra man, the Rangers had a solid last minute shot to get on the board from Derek Stephan. But Neuvy made yet another incredible save in an attempt to preserve the shut out. Despite Neuvy's extraordinary performance, the Rangers finally lit the lamp courtesy of Wojtek Wolski with under a minute left in the game. Tempers flared once again as Ruslan Fedotenko tried to take on John Erskine.

    Final Score: Capitals 3 - Rangers 1

    The Caps shook the monkey of last season’s first round exodus off their collective backs and celebrated the hard-earned victory with their fabulous fans. The new emphasis on 'defense first' hit a few bumps in the road during the season but was key to victory against a hardworking and physical New York team. Speaking of Rangers, former Ranger and longtime Capital's enforcer Donald Brashear is focusing on a new career path where he can employ his finely-tuned "work skills."

    In the meantime, Hockey Mom is off to celebrate this fabulous win with a glass of “red” wine as we await our next opponent and give the boys some much needed rest. Please join me in a toast – to the Caps!

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Caps Headed Back to Big Apple for Crucial Game Four

    The Caps are preparing to return to Madison Square Garden tomorrow night to face the New York Rangers for what's shaping up to be another hostile meeting between these two clubs. New York will most certainly have Gabby's recent comments dissing its landmark rat-poo infested arena (along with its accompanying Rangers fans) posted as bulletin board fodder. Washington's bench boss, in what seems to be an attempt to diffuse the focus from his players, also accused the thugnasty Rags of deliberately targeting Mike Green's recently healed melon and wanted the league to review Staal's late hit on Green. Never one to keep mum, Ranger's coach John Tortorella stuck to the "we just have to stay focused" party line when asked about Boudreau's comments.

    HM expects New York to continue the thuggery we witnessed on Sunday and the Caps will have to remain focused on keeping their cool. That and I'd have John Erskine, Matt Bradley and Matt Hendricks ready to smack down Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Vogue intern/runway model wannabe Sean Avery from the first face off. Though not nearly as offensively talented as the Capitals, the Rangers enter Game Four with a 198-214-8 record all-time in 420 playoff contests, including a 110-82-2 mark at home. New York has posted a 39-28 record all-time in Game Fours of playoff series, including a 5-0 mark in Game Four since 2007.

    Of course this is the playoffs folks and with teams fighting for the coveted chance to battle for Lord Stanley's chalice, things are bound to get ugly. The NHL handed down two suspensions today to Tampa Bay's poster boy for bad behavior, Steve Downie, and Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz. HM was watching the Vancouver/Chicago game and can attest that the Torres hit on Brent Seabrook was absolutely brutal - the debate on that one will continue for some time and Seabrook did not take the ice in tonight's Game Four in Chicago.

    Finally, all you members of the Mike Milbury Fan Club (okay, all one of yuz) can rejoice! The NHL announced a new broadcast deal with NBC/VERSUS for the next 10 years - meaning that Mad Mike and Pierre McGuire will be gracing our airwaves for at least the next decade. The good news is that we hopefully get to see more of the funny and overemotional Jeremy Roenick - along with the ongoing evolution of Brian Engblom's fabulous mullet.

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Rangers Beat Caps in Broadway Battle

    Michal Neuvirth has been one of the feel good story lines of this series so far and he started today’s game strong with a sweet save early on Matt Gilroy, as Gilroy took advantage of a pass from Ruslan Fedotenko in the opening moments of the first.

    The Rangers were hitting hard with the irritating line of Prust-Boyle-Avery making the most noise. Brooks Laich had some choice words for the nail-polish wearing Avery after a late whistle. He later broke the bad boy’s stick during a face off, making the agitator even more agitated. The first Caps’ power play came at 15:01 when Matt Gilroy went off for a hook. The boys took 2 shots during the man-advantage but they fell back on some bad habits, shooting with most of those coming from well outside the circles instead of crashing the net.

    The Caps didn’t have much luck on the power play but the penalty killers came up huge about two minutes later, when they had to kill of a Rangers’ 5-on-3. Matt Hendricks was whistled for goalie interference (even though it appeared he was pushed in by a Blueshirt) and in trying to clear the puck during the first kill, Mike Knuble swept it into the stands and joined Hendricks for some coffee and conversation in the MSG sin bin. The defense was sharp while down two mates, but Michal Neuvirth (who made 22 saves for his first career postseason shutout in the last meeting) remained cool and collected as he kept the Rangers off the scoreboard. Rangers’ sniper Marion Gaborik’s drought continued into the first period and he completely missed the net during their power play. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, New York’s Erik Christensen took an interference penalty and the Capitals would go on the power play again at the start of the second period. End of first period: Scoreless

    The man advantage to start the second period didn’t last long. Mike Green was called for tripping, the boys played a bit of 4-on-4 and then the Rags went on their second power play. Marcus Johansson had a fabulous short-handed opportunity as he swept the puck and used his speed to get a shot off on Lundqvist, who swiftly gloved it. The action came to a halt when a referee had a mishap behind the net and fell awkwardly. The injured ref apparently hurt a knee and play stopped until the replacement stripes could get to the ice. Once play resumed, both teams were still playing hard with a chip on their shoulders. John Carlson lost his cool early on and cross-checked Marc Staal. The Rangers’ ailing power play found some life and New York lit the lamp first on a difficult shot from the side by Erik Christensen.

    The Capitals seemed to lack the discipline that helped them win the first two contests. Ovechkin took the Caps’ fifth penalty of the game as he hooked Gaborik at the 8:50 mark. The refs weren’t calling it both ways though, as Scott Hannan got pegged with a pretty bogus holding call, giving the Rags their second 5-on-3 of the game (if only for 9 seconds). Meanwhile, the dastardly duo of Prust and Avery took runs at Michal Neuvirth after virtually every whistle. Ovechkin scored the tying goal with less than one minute left in the period, a tip-in right in King Henrik’s grill. Right before the play, Mike Green went down and appeared to be hit high – causing Caps fans around the country to hold their collective breath (glad to say he returned to the game).

    New York thought they had taken the lead at literally the last second of the period but after heading up to Toronto for review, the officials ruled that the puck crossed the line as the clock hit the 0.00 mark. The call will certainly be the subject of much controversy amongst Rangers fans and other Caps haters but it stood at 1 -1 at the end of the second period. It even stirred controversy in my own house as one of my own kids (wearing a Hendricks shirt, mind you) kept quipping “that was a goal.” Nice…

    Vinny Prospal gave New York the lead off an uncharacteristic Neuvirth rebound midway through the third period while the Caps trod a familiar path to the penalty box. Nick Backstrom took the team’s seventh penalty for tripping at 9:13. Bruce Boudreau commented on the officiating, angrily stating he thought there were some “ticky tacky” calls were made throughout the opening periods. Hockey Mom can only imagine what was going through Gabby’s hot head in the third – f-bombs galore I’m sure.

    The penalty killers saved the day once again. This game got so chippy that even the normally serene Marion Gaborik got busted for a cross-check. The tempo changed once again as Mike Knuble scored a power play tally with help from Ovi and Backstrom to even the score. The rough stuff was by no means over, as John Carlson (who along with Mike Green, seemed to have a bulls-eye tacked to his sweater) tussled with Brian Boyle. But in the end, the Rangers emerged victorious in today’s battle, as a shot from Brandon Dubinsky (who I deem runner-up in the cheesy mustache contest – Sid is always first) scored on a deflection with under two minutes on the clock. Final Score: Rangers 3 – Caps 2

    A disappointing day for Caps fans, but we’ve been in this spot before and Wednesday brings yet another opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead. The Hockey 101 key to victory: stay out of the box (even though some of those Rangers are as abrasive and annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard).

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Caps Take Game One in OT Thriller

    The Caps waited 82 games – some beautiful and some needing to be permanently banished from memory –to get to tonight: Game One of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tonight saw the sixth postseason series between the Rangers and Capitals, with Washington having won three of the first five series, owning an all-time 15-14 playoff record against New York. The two teams last met in the 2008-09 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, with Washington winning in seven games.

    Michal Neuvirth shook off any rookie playoff jitters early in the first period when he did his best Mary Lou Retton imitation, going to the splits to stop a shot from Erik Christensen. Shortly after, the Blueshirts went shorthanded after being whistled for too many men. The Rangers displayed their shot blocking prowess by negating several of the quality shots taken by the warmly welcomed Mike Green (his first game back since suffering a concussion in February) and company during the power play. One of the things new hockey fans will note is the energy and physical play that goes along with playoff puck. Alex Ovechkin embodied the spirit of the playoffs with a tooth-rattling hit against Brandon Dubinsky in the first ten minutes – those two have a bit of a history and Dubinsky is like the annoying booger-eating kid at the sixth-grade lunch table.

    The hitting ramped up significantly in the middle of the period and Mats Zucarello went a little overboard and went to the box for boarding at 10:13. The Caps’ power play was bolstered by the return of Mike Green but despite the boys’ best effort, King Henrik (with lots of help from his BFF – the goal post) ensured they stayed off the scoreboard. It was the Caps’ penalty killers’ turn to go to work in the final minutes of the period as Alex Semin put on his Bad Sasha mask (unbelievable – I know) and took a seat for one of his signature hooking moves. The boys kept the Rangers at bay and went into the dressing room with a 9-5 shots on goal advantage. End of First Period: Caps 0 – Rangers 0

    The boys continued the pressure into the second period but struggled to hit the net, with Jason Arnott dinging yet another post and Nick Backstrom missing a wide-open net. Neuvy matched Lundqvist’s heroics by stopping sniper Marion Gaborik stone cold at around the 12:00 point. Marco Sturm, who had his share of shots on net in the first period, threw a couple more at Henrik in the middle stanza. Meanwhile, Nick Backstrom had one of the better chances of the night as he had a clean breakaway and deked out Lundqvist. This time it wasn’t the post, but Henrik’s goalie pads, that swiped the puck from within millimeters of crossing the red line. Both the Caps and the Rangers would need some frozen pea bags during the break after their second period shot blocking extravaganza. End of second period: Caps 0 – Rangers 0

    The Rangers lit the lamp first at 1:56 in the final period as Matt Gilroy beat Michal Neuvirth with a slap shot. The Caps got the equalizer 12 minutes later on an ugly goal that was the source of much controversy. Ovechkin and posse were hacking and whacking in front of the crease and the captain managed to push the puck through Lundqvist’s pads, then the net came loose. The Rangers thought the ref blew the whistle prior to the puck crossing the line but after review, the call went in the Caps’ favor.

    End of shaking and baking third period: Caps 1 – Rangers 1

    As if we needed more drama between these two foes, Game One required extra minutes. I almost forgot how my sleep total goes down and Starbuck’s consumption goes up during playoff OT games – often times running into the wee hours of the morning. Neuvy had to make a quick save early in OT on the dangerous Artem Anisimov. Marco Sturm and Marcus Johannson had a splendid scoring chance a little less than five minutes into OT as they both turned on the afterburners speeding towards the Rangers crease. King Henrik had his work cut out with him as multiple Caps, including Jason Chimera, Ovi and Jeff Schultz, peppered his crease. On the other end, Gaborik thought he’d netted the game winner with six minutes left, but he was stonewalled by a sharp Neuvirth. Both teams battled hard, with Brian Boyle blocking a Carlson slap shot, into the waning minutes of overtime. The playoffs have not been historically kind to Alexander Semin, who has seemingly disappeared in playoffs past. But the Russian sniper has been solid of late, especially under the mentorship of confident vet Jason Arnott, and tonight Semin finally shook off the playoff demons that have plagued him in seasons past. Sasha blasted a rocket (with help from pal Arnott)  at 18:24 past a dog tired Marc Staal and beleaguered Lundvqist to win a thriller and take Game One!

    Final Score: Caps 2 – Rangers 1

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Capitals First Round Playoff Schedule

    The moment we've been waiting for all season is finally here - the chance to undo all the bad memories from last year's abrupt first round playoff exit. As far as my own personal playoff preparations: Caps flags on car - check; nails freshly laquered in OPI 'Russian Red' - check; the boys' playoff beards started - check, well maybe not so much (but even at 15 years old, I bet they beat Sidney Crosby in a beard growing contest)!

    And finally, first round playoff schedule entered into the smartphone - check. For those of you who haven't marked your own calendars yet, here's the schedule the NHL released last night:

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington (CSN) (VERSUS)

    Friday, April 15, 2011 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington (CSN)

    Sunday, April 17, 2011 3 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers (NBC)

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011 7 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers (CSN)

    *Saturday, April 23, 2011 3 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington (NBC)

    *Monday, April 25, 2011 TBD Washington at NY Rangers (CSN)

    *Wednesday, April 27, 2011 TBD NY Rangers at Washington (CSN)

    The boys will practice today at 10:30 a.m.and tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

    In anticipation of the much anticipated first round, Hockey Mom was asked to join several other Caps media types in a playoff roundtable over at On Frozen Blog. Check it out here. The Sporting News' Craig Custance shares his thoughts on why he thinks the Caps will take the first round over the Rangers - makes for some good Monday morning reading!

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    For the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

    The Washington Capitals will face the New York Rangers, after the Carolina Hurricanes were eliminated in a 6-2 rout by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hockey Mom is rocking the fresh, red pedicure and the Caps flags will go on the car first thing tomorrw. Stay tuned for the completed playoff sched but Game One will be this coming Wednesday or Thursday. Will this be the year?

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    And Then There Was One....

    Regular season game left, that is. The Caps are headed to the sun and sands of South Florida for their final game prior to the start of the long-awaited post season. The Florida Panthers proved to be no match for the Capitals on Wednesday and with the probable return of Mike Green to the line up and the Cats' Stephen Weiss and Tomas Vokoun on the shelf, the boys should be able to win another one and head into the playoffs on a high note. Gabby is playing his cards close to his chest in terms of saying who will be sitting out to "rest" tomorrow night. Meanwhile, the playoff picture is still murky as teams are scrambling for the final spots in the East.

    Here's how it stands right at this very minute:

    7th Spot: Buffalo Sabres (92 pts)
    8th Spot: New York Rangers (91 points)
    9th Spot: Carolina Hurricanes (89 points)

    The Rangers lost a stinker last night (3-0) to the non-playoff bound Atlanta Thrashers. They'll get a chance to rest a bit then face another non-playoff bound team, New Jersey, tomorrow. Buffalo meets the Flyers (who are having their own mini-meltdown as of late) tonight, then close the season out against Columbus. The Hurricanes are hoping for two regulation wins against their final opponents, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, to grab that last dance card.

    Meanwhile, Vancouver Canucks fans are celebrating their President's Trophy win and #1 in the West seed by tossing...salmon. Yep, in a game that saw Ryan Kesler hit the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career with a hat trick, some over jubilant fan decided to chuck a rather large salmon onto the ice. Dude, I could use that on my grill!

    Seriously? (s/t to Puck Daddy)

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Caps Clinch Southeast Divsion Title and Another Milestone for Great Eight

    Despite a spectacular performance by Toronto's net minder, James Reimer, the Capitals clinched their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title last night in a 3-2 shoot out win against the Leafs. You'll recall that the Division title looked to be clasped rather firmly in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Caps were struggling back in the dark days of December. Toronto came out hard against the visitors last evening, but our big, bad d-man John Erskine came out even harder, with some bone-crushing hits and a rare second period tally.

    Much to the delight of Capitals fans, Alex Ovechkin seems to be peaking at exactly the right time. The Great Eight notched yet another milestone with his 300th career goal  - a power play sizzler in the first period. Reaching the 300 mark also signifies that Ovi has averaged around 50 goals over his first six seasons as a Capital. He's on fire as of late, accruing points in 17 of his last 20 appearances  - lighting the lamp 10 times and kicking in 16 assists during that time frame! 

    Of course, the game winning goal came at the hands of the trusty veteran Mike Knuble, when Gabby decided to line up the shoot out roster according to age. Yes sir, those elder statesmen Knuble and Arnott are aging like fine wine - Knuble has 23 goals on the season and both have vast playoff experience (with Arnott having actually hoisted Lord Stanley's vessel).

    The Caps return to a playoff-ready Phone Booth tonight to meet the Florida Panthers. Rumors are swirling that tonight's game may see the return of Mike Green to the lineup. The race to the playoffs continues and the boys now occupy the top spot as the Flyers continue their late season struggles, falling last night to 14th place Ottawa. Philly has only two games left (against the Sabres and Islanders) to make up a two point deficit.

    Though we love to loathe this team, HM has to applaud the Penguins (take note as this happens maybe once in never) for their new initiative to test local youth hockey players for concussion symptoms. The issue of head injuries has come front and center with Mike Green, Sidney Crosby, Marc Savard and a host of other NHLers suffering with the results this season, so it's vital that youth players, parents and coaches are aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions - which can be especially debilitating to youngsters.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Monday Musings: Three Regular Season Games to Go

    There are only three regular season games left, against Eastern Conference teams who don't have a chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks of making this year's playoffs (Toronto and Florida). The Stanley Cup playoffs will commence on April 13, with the memory of last year's abrupt first round exodus front and center in the players' minds. We can only hope that we see the return of Tom Poti and Mike Green (after they've had a chance to shake off the rust of course) for the first round. But what we hope not to see once that playoff puck drops, is an opponent skating through multiple Caps players to light it up, as did Les Canadiens last year. It took awhile for we fans to get used to, but the boys have had success with the two-way game and with the exception of an ugly, learning curve, have tightened up the defensive play and boast the lowest number of goals against in their division (192). But as these last few games have proven, the Caps still have some tweaking to do - longtime Caps' scribe Taril El-Bashir breaks it down best. Thankfully, the old guys in the room Mike Knuble and Jason Arnott, are taking the lead in addressing the areas needing improvement.

    Until the first faceoff against the lowly Leafs tomorrow, here are some miscellaneous Monday musings:

    • On a very sad note, the hockey world sends condolences for the loss of Yale player Mandi Schwartz, who lost her long battle with leukemia yesterday, at the much too young age of 23.
    • Another youngster battling the insidious disease, William Shannon, got a smile and a signed sweater from Sasha during Fan Appreciation Night. (stick tap to Kings of Leonsis).
    • Alex Ovechkin has been on the celebrity circuit of late, first meeting the First Lady and most recently, the often jailed rap star Lil Wayne. In the words of my teens: That is SO chill.
    • Caps get some coverage for being tops in the East from the Canadian press.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Caps Face Sabres with Depleted Blue Line

    Jason Chimera had the last laugh against his old team last night with his overtime game-winning goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the win came at the expense of another Capitals blueliner. John Erskine took part in a pretty pointless fight in the first period, then left the game due to injury. Erskine is now listed as day-to-day, not good news for an already overtasked defense corps. Despite getting the win and surpassing the 100 point mark, thoughts in the post-game locker room were with team mate Dennis Wideman. TSN's Bob McKenzie reported late yesterday that Wideman (who's been one of the ice time leaders and a much needed cog in the power play since Mike Green's been out) is in a D.C. hospital with a serious hematoma. The injury was a result of the brutal collision between Wideman and Tuomo Ruutu on Tuesday. HM joins her fellow fans in Capsland in wishing him a speedy recovery and keep our fingers crossed that he's back (along with Mike Green) for the playoffs.

    Speaking of Mike Green, there is good news to report on that front. Green has been skating with the team and may take on a full practice as early as Monday. Meanwhile, the boys take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow (in what may turn out to be a first round playoff match) without Green, Wideman and possibly Erskine. The Sabres are without their star netminder, Ryan Miller, who has been bitten by the injury bug himself. A win tomorrow could propel the Caps to the top spot in the East, as the Flyers fell to the Devils in a 4-2 loss this evening. Overseeing tomorrow night's festivities for his final night wearing stripes will be veteran  NHL referee Bill McCreary. The site will be appropriate as McCreary began his four-decades-spanning NHL career by working a Capitals home game. McCreary’s debut as an NHL referee was on November 3, 1984, when the Caps hosted the New Jersey Devils at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. Tomorrow night’s game will be the 1,737th of his accomplished career.

    McCreary’s long list of accomplishments includes refereeing 15 Stanley Cup Final series (13 consecutive from 1994-2007), the 1991 and 1994 Canada Cups, the 1994 NHL All-Star Game (New York), and the Winter Olympics in 1998 (Nagano), 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver) -- drawing the gold medal game assignment each time.

    And as we count down the hours until tomorrow's 7 p.m. puck drop, I leave you with some fun stuff courtesy of some of favorite Caps peeps:

    • Just one more reason to love the guys who represent this organization, get ready to break into a huge smile when you watch Semyon Varlamov minding the net against the adorable William. Thanks to Russian Machine Never Breaks, @rinkrebel and @itallfallsdwn.
    • Ovi is truly the man about town, hanging out with DJ Pauly D and now, Michelle Obama. Thanks to Capitals Outsider.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Caps Lose to Fiery Canes in Shootout

    Last night’s game saw the return of Caps’ stars Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott after missing more than a few games due to undisclosed injuries against a rabid Carolina Hurricanes team, holding to a thread of hope for grasping the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

    The rough stuff started early in the first period and both teams tread a well-trodden path to the sin bin through the opening 20 minutes. Bryan Allen got a bit too feisty with the large man known as Jason Arnott (not smart) and both fellas took a seat at the 8:23 mark. Mere seconds later, Brooks Laich was whistled for interference for giving a Canes player a love tap in the back (with his stick). The boys came up huge on the resulting PK with help from Semyon Varlamov. With the focus on head hits, Carolina’s Chad LaRose made a bonehead (no pun intended) hit on Dennis Wideman, high in the noggin against the boards, and it was his turn to feel shame. Despite a slew of power play opportunities for both teams in the opening period, the scoreboard remained dark with no score going into the break.

    Early in the second period, Canes captain Eric Staal was high-sticked by Karl Alzner and came out of the incident looking much like an extra from Saw 4 and giving Matt Bradley a run for his money in the bleeder department. Staal was incensed by the lack of a penalty call against the Caps and vocalized his displeasure to the refs all the way to the bench. It was the Canes who lit the lamp first, with a power play goal from Jussi Jokinen.

    The fireworks continued as Tuomo Ruutu (yes, his bro is none other than Sens thug Jarko) hit Dennis Wideman late and high midway through the period, drawing the ire of Alex Ovechkin. Ovi wasted no time avenging the action (and was on Ruutu’s tail the rest of the game dishing out bone-jarring hits). Team mates and Caps fans will be holding their collective breath to hear any injury news about Wideman, who didn’t return to the game. Alex Semin scored first for the Caps at 14:18 with a scary, sick goal from the odd angle of the far right side of Cam Ward. Three minutes later, it was Marcus Johansson displaying some slick stick work to give the home team a 2-1 lead.

    The Canes, fighting for that last playoff spot with everything they had, got on the board at the start of the third period courtesy of a goal from baby-faced Jeff Skinner, who leads the pack as far as top NHL rookies (along with our own John Carlson of course).

    With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, Ovi appeared to have a clear path to Cam Ward but was rudely taken down from behind with a cross check by Brandon Sutter. During the 4-on-4 overtime, Alex Ovechkin seemed to have never skipped a beat after being out of commission, shooting one puck so hard at Cam Ward that the shot broke Ward’s goalie stick. This contest couldn’t be settled in OT, and despite outshooting the Canes for during regulation and OT, and these two heated Southeast rivals were going to the shootout. Gabby didn’t put shoot out guru of late Matt Hendricks in the lineup and both Ovechkin and Backstrom were thwarted in their attempts. For the Canes, the young Skinner beat Varly for the second goal of the night but it was the game’s key antagonist, Tuomo Ruutu with the game winner, beating the Caps at home 3-2.

    Up next, the boys face their final Western Conference opponent of the regular season, the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. On the opposing bench will be former Caps’ captain Chris Clark along with the very opinionated RJ Umberger. Let’s hope Thursday’s game has a more positive outcome and that Dennis Wideman is on the healthy list!

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Countdown to Playoffs and Caps on the Mend

    The Capitals had mixed results in the last two Canadian stops on their 11-game road trip this weekend, with a loss (with lots of help from the heinous officiating crew) in Ottawa and a 2-0 blanking of the chippy Canadiens (which saw Braden Holtby notch his second career shut out). And note to self, the win in Montreal came as a result of increased defensive pressure on the Habs' steely shooters and again, without having stars Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jason Arnott in the lineup.

    Now the boys come home to face the Carolina Hurricanes, who are still clinging onto shards of hope that they can earn that 8th place playoff spot. Rumour has it that Ovi and Arnott are expected to participate in full practice tomorrow and may return to action this week. Good timing, as the team can now look forward to perfecting the chemistry and nailing down the lines for the playoffs, which are less than three weeks away. Start prepping for the post-season by checking out the very witty and resourceful Blonde Girl's Guide for your comprehensive guide (in blondespeak) to understanding the NHL playoff seedings. Here's how things shake out if the playoffs started today.

    But before we get too caught up in playoff frenzy and Hockey Mom places her Caps car flags on the red rocket (prompting people to mistake me for the pizza delivery dude this time every year), be sure to get your tickets for the third annual Capitals Convention. The 2011 Capitals Convention will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, September 24, 2011.

    The popular event will return to the Washington Convention Center for the second straight year. Caps Con has been a tremendous success in its first two years, attracting sold-out crowds of more than 6,500 to the day-long interactive and informational celebration of the Capitals, which features the entire roster of current players and a number of prominent alumni. The day will include player autographs and photos with fans. There will be a wide array of activities on hand such as hockey interactives, panel sessions, hockey displays and much more.

    Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10 am, to season-ticket holders and Tuesday, March 29 at 10 a.m. to the general public at Ticket prices are $40 for adults and $25 for children 14 and younger if purchased by May 31 (adult price increases to $45 on June 1). Two other ticket options are available: a $600 golden ticket with special access to every autograph session and VIP room and a $30 ticket without autograph access. Be sure to get your tickets soon as they sell as fast as Alex Semin on a sick breakaway!

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Monday Musings: NHL Throws the Book at Matt Cooke and More....

    Here are some miscellaneous Monday musings from around the rinks as HM gets set for another week of work/hockey/laundry/making lunches, well, you get the picture:

    • The NHL sent a huge message today as they threw the book (well, the whole series of Encyclopedia Britannica actually) at repeat offender Matt Cooke for his irresponsible and dangerous elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh. For his most recent trangression, Cooke was suspended today for the remainder of the NHL's regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Finally, the league got it right when it comes to sending the message of no tolerance in regards to head hits.
    • More on the Cooke hullabaloo from renowned hockey journalist Mike Brophy.
    • The Capitals will face the conference-leading Flyers tomorrow night minus their marquee star, Alex Ovechkin. Ouch, but definitely worth sitting him to be good and fresh for the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Flyers are still without their rough and tumble defenseman Chris Pronger. Puck drops tomorrow night at 7:30 on VERSUS.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    NHL Focuses on Concussions and What to Do About Matt Cooke

    Some of the biggest names in the game, including the Capitals’ own Mike Green, have fallen victim to the debilitating effects of concussions this season, forcing the NHL to take a hard look at ways to prevent player concussions resulting from dangerous hits to the head.

    The good news for Mike Green is that he getting much closer to returning to the ice and Caps fans could possibly welcome him back this week. Green took a puck to the face in a game against the Penguins in early February and then was hit in the head by Rangers rookie Derek Stepan just a few weeks later. The scary thing about concussions is that there is no projected “timetable for recovery” and many concussed players are sidelined for months while dealing with symptoms such as headaches, light sensitivity, dizziness and even depression. Boston’s Marc Savard’s season was cut short due to recurrent concussion symptoms after being the recipient of head contact during consecutive games. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby – one of the league’s poster boys alongside Alex Ovechkin – just started to skate for the first time last week since he suffered a major concussion back in January.

    In light of the rash of concussed players thus far this season, league General Managers made the issue of head hits/concussion prevention one of their hot topics during their recent meetings in Florida. The GMs have already taken a stance in banning blindside hits to the head. The most recent debate failed to result in a ban on all head shots but will take a closer look at hits to the head as a result of boarding or charging.

    And as hockey players are some of the most competitive athletes you’ll ever see, most are understandably hesitant to take themselves out of a big game after they’ve received a blow to the noggin. Thus the NHL implemented a stricter concussion protocol that went into effect last week in which a player suspected of having a concussion will have to be removed from the bench and examined by a physician (versus the team trainer as was previously the case) in a quiet place. Another possible solution to cutting down on the number of concussions would be to enforce stricter punishment to players guilty of targeting opponent’s heads – especially in the case of repeat offenders.

    For fans, the speed and physicality the game are part of what makes hockey so captivating. So let’s hope that the league is heading in the right direction as far as protecting the players of this phenomenal game that moves at the speed of light! Unlike sprained ankles, tweaked groins, or broken bones, concussions are preventable injuries that can unfortunately, have lifelong negative health effects and can prematurely end a player’s career.

    And while we're on the topic of head shots, one of the league's dirtiest players (why Matt Cooke, of course) displayed his dirty work on national television as he took a deliberate elbow to the head of the Ranger's Ryan McDonaugh:

    In HM's opinion, suspending this repeat offender for anything less than the remainder of the season (throw in a few playoff games for good measure) would be an absolute joke.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Caps Blank Hot Devils at the Rock

    After a hard-fought battle resulting in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings (who sit in a solid second place spot in the uber-tough Western conference), the Capitals were off to New Jersey to face the Cinderella story Devils tonight. The Devils are still without poster boy Zach Parise and have been the buzz of the hockey world since working their way up from the bottom of the barrel in terms of NHL standings. After the two teams traded players in the forms of Jason Arnott and David Steckel (neither of who dressed this evening), the Devils won six of their last eight in the month of March.

    Tonight the home team skated in their retro red and green uniforms, bringing back memories of Christmases past. Legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur manned the net for Devils donning a throwback red mask (which was knocked clear off by his own defense man in the second period). The Capitals welcomed back Nick Backstrom, who'd been on the shelf with a fractured thumb. Meanwhile, to say the Caps had a slow start would be an understatement. The boys only threw 2 shots towards Brodeur (compared to New Jersey's 12) in the first period - luckily one of those two (a slap shot from yes, Jeff Schultz) lit the lamp. Michal Neuvirth continues to plead his case for the number one spot, stopping all 12 shots he faced to hold the Devils scoreless. End of first period: Capitals 1 - Devils 0

    The boys didn't exactly pick up the pace as far as shots on goal in the middle stanza either - recording a whopping 6 - in addition to handing the Devils two power play opportunities. Again, Michal Neuvirth's heroic saves kept the Caps in the game, which included a jaw-dropper of a stop against a rocket from FOO (friend of Ovi) Ilya Kovalchuk. Despite the low number of pucks being directed towards Marty (who must have had Red Bull in the Gatorade bottle to keep from dozing), Mike Knuble tallied for the Caps at 15:58, a result of a beautiful feed from Jersey-born rookie John Carlson. *Fans, we many have to thank Carlson's mom for his outstanding performance  - apparently Mama Carlson fed the boys like champs on Thursday night! This PSA brought to you by: Thank a Hockey Mom...

    With 3:09 left in second period, Matt Hendricks of blue mouthguard and black eye fame, inadvertently lifted his stick, hitting Rod Pelley in the face. Hendricks drew a double minor and the Caps were on a four-minute penalty kill. The stellar penalty kill unit finished off the second period by denying the Devils and had under a minute left on the kill to open the third. End of second period: Capitals 2 - Devils 0

    The PK unit went straight to work to open the final period, shutting down New Jersey's power play. Having already notched an assist and a goal, veteran Mike Knuble got on the scoreboard again with under 9 minutes left in the period. Knuble was the recpient of a nice pass from Ovechkin and banked it over Brodeur's glove while parked in his tradtional fishing grounds - right in front of the net. Carlson continued to shine, capturing an assist on the last tally in front of his beaming friends and family. Michal Neuvirth made yet another outstanding save against Kovalchuk as the final seconds ticked off the clock, leaving the highly compensated winger shaking his head in frustration. Neuvy further cemented his status as frontrunner for the starting gig by denying a total of 33 shots on the evening - a brilliant performance overall. Final Score: Capitals 3 - Devils 0

    After claiming their 20th road win of the season, the boys face a tough test (emphasis on "tough" as we are talking about Philly after all) on Tuesday as they'll enter a hostile Wachovia Center to face the Flyers. As always, it's sure to be a feisty affair, especially considering both teams are neck and neck in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Foil up your knuckles Caps fans...

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Braden Holtby Shines as NHL's First Star

    In what's been a whirlwind of a success story, Capital's goaltender Braden Holtby recieved high honors from the NHL today, being tapped as the First Star of the Week! He joins Vancouver's Daniel Sedin and Anaheim's Corey Perry atop the list of outstanding league performers for the week ending March 13.

    From the NHL press release:


    Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record, 1.05 goals-against average, .965 save percentage and one shutout as the Capitals (40-20-10, 90 points) moved into second place in the Eastern Conference. Holtby stopped 110 of 114 shots last week, beginning with a 20-save performance in a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Mar. 7. He recorded 22 saves in notching his first career shutout, backstopping Washington to a 5-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Mar. 9 and stopped 40 shots as the Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Mar. 11. Holtby finished the week by recording 27 saves as Washington defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime, Mar. 13. The 21-year-old native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan has appeared in 11 games for Washington, posting a record of 7-2-2 with a 1.84 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and one shutout.

    During an NHL conference call, Braden said he was "told this morning and am thrilled about it" and admitted "it's nice to be recognized but at the same time, I have to keep focused and help keep this winning streak going." He said he's looking forward to taking in all the excitement that surrounds playing in Montreal's Bell Centre (having never played in the legendary arena before) but has not been told whether or not he'll get the official nod as of this afternoon.

    Congrats and a standing ovation to the Caps' very talented and grounded youngster, I have a feeling we'll be seeing him around these parts for awhile! As if Bruce Boudreau didn't already have a tough enough job nailing down the #1 goalie spot for the playoffs...

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Caps Defeat Blackhawks in Overtime Thriller

    The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks paid a rare visit to a sold out Verizon Center today in a nationally televised showdown between two powerhouse hockey clubs. Corey Crawford guarded the net for Chicago while youngster Braden Holtby got the nod for the Caps. Holtby has yet to lose in regulation at Verizon Center, going into today's game with a record of 0.94 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.

    Penalty woes plagued the Caps in the early part of the first period as Mike Knuble was slapped with interference just 26 seconds into the contest. The Blackhawks got on the board first, courtesy of one Nick Leddy. Soon after, Marcus Johannson took the second Caps' penalty for a hook and the guys were back on the PK. Then it was the men in red's turn to light the lamp as Boyd Gordon beat Patrick sharp for the shorty - his third goal of the year - at 6:11 of the period.

    Things got rather chippy with under six minutes left in opening period as Brooks Laich took a high stick in the face from Brian Campbell (which drew no call), leading the boys to take matters into their own hands with some exhuberant pushing and shoving.

    With 1:39 left on the first period clock, the Caps went on the power play resulting from a holding call on the Hawks. Jason Arnott blasted a rocket from the blueline past a bewildered Crawford to give boys a 2-1 lead at 19:46 (assisted by Alex Semin and Dennis Wideman). End of first period: Capitals 2 - Blackhawks 1

    The second period opened with a Chicago goal early from Tomas Kopecky - an ugly one for Holtby that he certainly wished he had back. Then, at the 8:09 mark, Boyd Gordon took a seat for a hook. The boys had another golden opportunity for a shorthanded goal as Jason Arnott broke away with the puck as the Caps kept up the pressure on Crawford. Meanwhile, the penalty kill continues to shine as they kept the Hawk's power play off the board on yet another huge kill.

    With 4:22 left in the middle stanza, Tomas Kopecky took a seat for a heinous boarding of Dennis Wideman (which Hockey Mom thinks should have been a four-minute penalty but what do I know). With the seconds ticking off the clock, speedster Jason Chimera took exception to a nasty hit from Chicago's Brent Seabrook and the two settled their differences by dropping the gloves. Unfortunately, Seabrook had the better showing in this one, though Chimera snuck in a few hard rights when Seabs went down. By the end of  two periods, the home team had the advantage in hits with 23 to Chicago's 14, as well as shots (24-21).
    End of second period: Capitals 2 - Blackhawks 2

    Brooks Laich gave the Caps the lead at 6:23 of the third period with his dashing good looks and a sizzling five-hole goal (helped along by Eric Fehr). The crowd chanted "HOLTBY" as Braden stopped a direct Hawks snipe under the three-minute mark. The Caps then went on the most nerve-wracking penalty kill of the day as Marcus Johannson took a seat for high-sticking. With 38.5 seconds left, the Hawks tied the game on a goal fom their captain Jonathan Toews, as Dennis Wideman fell onto Holtby, impeding his ability to stop the puck. Poor Braden got twisted up like Gumby as he scrambled to regain his footing.
    End of regulation: Capitals 3 - Blackhawks 3

    A national televised audience got to witness an extended battle as this game went into OT. But it was the Caps capturing the big win as Mike Knuble redirected a pass from Marcus Johannsen as #22 had his large frame parked in front of Crawford's crease. Final score: Capitals 4 - Blackhawks 3

    After the game, Gabby noted that the boys "played better than them - may not happen the next time we play them. They might be tired from being on the road but I thought today we were the better team." The win gives the team a total of 90 points and their eighth consecutive victory, inching them closer to the Flyers for the top spot in the East. An added bonus for the boys, DJ Pauly D was in the locker room chillin' wit' Ovi and pals - fist pumps for everyone!

    The Caps don't have much time to savor the victory as they head out of town for an extended road trip where they'll face some of the hottest teams in the East (and West as well when they meet the Red Wings on Wednesday). Let's hope the boys keep up their winning ways on the road!

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Hockey Mom Weighs in on Head Hits

    In light of the recent uproar over Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara's damaging hit on the Habs' Max Pacioretty, Hockey Mom has decided to throw her two cents into the debate (along with Daniel Sedin, Joe Thornton, Air Canada and legendary net minder Ken Dryden, among others).

    But before I climb up onto my soapbox, a toast to the Caps for a hard-fought victory over the tenacious Carolina Hurricanes last night. Ovechkin tallied and Matt Hendricks swooped in to bunt in Jason Arnott's leave behind in a 2-1 win, aided by the hot hand of young Braden Holtby, who stopped 40 shots. No rest for the weary though as the boys take on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow (the Hawks haven't been so successful thus far in their swing down South).

    Now back to my box. If you haven't seen the Chara/Pacioretty hit, I must warn you it's absolutely cringeworthy (video credit to

    The hit left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and two displaced vertebrae. Many hockey fans are appalled that the league did not dole out any additional punishment to the towering Bruins defenseman. And the historic bad blood between the two teams just adds fuel to the fire. In my opinion, Chara may not have had intent to injure, but clearly he had the elbow up and made contact with Pacioretty's head. Now Chara is not known as a dirty player and is often cited for his global humanitarian work off the ice. But in my opinion, it was an obvious head shot (and not one occuring as a result of an unfortunatecollision, as was the case of the Steckel/Crosby hit - of which I'm sure many Penguins fans would opt to differ) and should have incurred a suspension if the NHL really wants to enforce a zero tolerance stance.

    In keeping with its inconsistent punishment of hits to the head, the league doled out a three-game suspension to Tampa Bay Lightning d-man Pavel Kubina for his elbow to the head of Chicago's Dave Bolland in a game three days after the Chara incident (Bolland is suffering from a concussion and most likely won't suit up against the Capitals tomorrow).

    What concerns me about this lack of consistency regarding hits to the head (intentional or not) aside from the obvious disasterous impact such hits have on NHL players (just ask Marc Savard), is the message it sends to youth players. The more youth players see there are no consequences for knocking a fellow player in the noggin in the professional arena, the more likely they are to test crossing the line in their own game (especially when you're dealing with Bantam level players and up, who are often times pushing the limits fueled by surging testosterone levels). Granted my own two are sometimes guilty, but watching NHL games together offers me a prime opportunity for teaching lessons they can incorporate at the youth level. But when the NHL is sending mixed messages, it certainly makes those teaching moments for us hockey parents a heck of a lot harder. We can only hope that the GMs come to some sort of concrete resolution on the issue during their upcoming annual meeting...

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Ovechkin to Make Wish Come True

    Alex Ovechkin is known for his insane talent on the ice, his gregarious personality and that infectious gap-toothed smile. But those closest to him, including Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis, frequently talk about Ovi's big heart when it comes to helping others. Tomorrow he'll be making a dream come true for 13-year old Ryan Rowlinson, who is courageously battling neurofibromatosis. Ryan has asked to meet his hockey hero as part of the wonderful Make-A-Wish Foundation® program.

    Ryan will meet the Great8 at the Caps' morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex where he'll sit between the benches to watch and then get a tour of the locker room led by the captain himself.  Then tomorrow night, he'll attend the game where he will sit in “Ovi’s Crazy 8s” seats along with his parents and younger brother. He will watch the pregame warmups from the penalty box, ride the Olympia ice resurfacer during the first intermission and meet Ovie after the game.  Ryan is from Duncan, British Columbia, and has long wanted to meet Ovechkin and watch him play in person. Hockey Mom joins my fellow Caps fans in wishing this brave young man the best as he continues his fight against neurofibromatosis.

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. Founded in 1980 when a group of caring volunteers helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world.

    For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic, including how you can help refer a local child from Maryland, Northern Virginia, Delaware or the District of Columbia for a wish as well as sponsor a wish or donate in-kind gifts of goods, services or airline frequent flier miles, please call (301) 962-9474 or visit

    The BC & Yukon chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation was formed in 1983. Since inception, this chapter has made more than 1,400 wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Caps Zap Bolts in 2 -1 Shoot Out Win

    As expected, tonight's meeting between Southeastern Conference rivals Washington and Tampa Bay was a chippy affair from first puck drop (thanks to Bruce Boudreau calling out Stamkos and Downie for diving, perhaps?). Michal Neuvirth took a hit to the head and lost his lid right after the first faceoff and play was stopped momentarily until he could get his old mask on. At 12:30 of the first period, Matt Hendricks went to the box for a slash. Meanwhile, pint-sized sniper and perennial Lady Byng winner Martin St. Louis netted the power play goal to get the Bolts on the board first (the tally was later credited to Sean Bergenheim).

    Throughout the first period Ovi was on Mattias Ohlund like white on rice - hitting him at every opportunity. It was Ohlund who gave the Caps their first man advantage late in the period, the result of a lazy hook against Alex Semin (who once again was showing much more spring in his step- I'm loving it!). As the final seconds of the boys' power play ticked off the clock, Ovi cleared the puck from the defensive zone and it surprisingly flew above the glass, drawing the Great8 a delay of game call. At the end of the opening stanza, the captain was in the sin bin and shots on goal were even at seven apiece.

    End of first period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 0

    After killing the penalty during the opening minutes of the second period, the Caps were called for too many men. Braden Holtby, who came in to relieve Neuvirth (Neuvy apparently was feeling the effects of being hit in the head in first period - hope for a speedy recovery), made a sizzler of a stick save against the Lightning's Simone Gagne. On the other side of the ice, Dwayne Roloson continued to be a thorn in the Caps' side for most of the evening.

    And bad news for Caps' fans, Nick Backstrom left the game in the second period and did not return. As adept as he is at line-juggling, Gabby adjusted by placing Jason Arnott in between the two Alexes. Despite an excellent scoring chance on the part of Jason Arnott, the Caps didn't light the lamp in the second period.

    End of second period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 0

    The third period saw an early goal from Vincent Lecavalier waved off as a tripped up Bolt knocked down Holtby, impeding his ability to make any kind of save (turned out to be a bit of a controversial call on the part of the stripes). Meanwhile, Alex Semin was playing out of his mind and almost got into a skirmish with Dominic Moore in front of the Caps' crease. Whatever Sasha is doing these days, keep it up!

    Of course it was #28 who tied up the game at 14:28 with help from Ovi and  Dennis Wideman. The tie wasn't broken in the final period and we were off to OT.

    End of third period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 1

    Braden Holtby exhibited the coolness of a seasoned vet and the boys crashed the net on the other end during OT but this hard-fought battle required a shoot out to settle the score. For reasons unknown, Bolts bench boss Guy Boucher didn't go with stars Steven Stamkos or Marty St. Louis in the shoot out while Gabby stacked his line with both Alexes. It was Alex Ovechkin who saved the day, blowing a rocket past Roloson so fast it not only rattled the net minder, but his water bottle as well.

    Braden Holtby was spectacular in the OT and stumped Dominic Moore, Adam Hall and Vinny Lecavalier in the shoot out, earning a big win for the Caps as we head down the stretch. The boys clinched the first place spot in the division and sit just below Boston at third the East with 84 points. Nice win and another toast to a rejuvenated Alex Semin - next up, the Edmonton Oilers pay a rare visit to the Phone Booth on Wednesday.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Capitals Surge to Chase Away the Blues

    It hasn't taken long for the new faces in the room to develop some chemistry with their new team mates, as evidenced by tonight's hard-fought win against the St. Louis Blues on Military Appreciation Night. But it was the young Blues club who got on the scoreboard first after a somewhat slow start by the Caps.

    The game's tempo took a turn for the better when Matt Bradley KO'd Tyson Strachan towards the end of the first period. The Blues always play a rough and tumble game and were quite generous in doling out the hits. But one of the newest Capitals, Dennis Wideman, had at least five tooth-rattling hits of his own (in addition to a few key blocked shots in front of the net). Wideman is fitting in quite nicely thank you - and led the boys in ice time with more than 22 minutes in action. It was his fellow defense man, Scott Hannan, who lit the lamp first for the home team. Hannan was the recipient of a beautiful pass from Ovechkin, and notched his first tally as a Capital at 3:08 in the second period. Matt Hendricks, who was grinding it out in the corners for much of the evening, also had a hand in Hannan's goal. Two minutes later, St. Louis reclaimed the lead as BJ Crombeen stunned the boys, scoring right off the face off.

    The Caps were skating harder than we've seen in quite some time and their consistent energy paid off. Alex Semin turned up the heat on the occasion of his 27th birthday, taking several quality shots and mucking it up on the boards. Nicklas Backstrom tied the game with a goal resulting from a lacrosse-like swing (sure to be on many of tomorrow's highlight reels) at 6:28 in the second, giving Ovechkin his second assist and Mike Knuble his first on the night. End of second period: Caps 2 - Blues 2

    The atmosphere at Verizon Center was electric going into the final period, reminiscient of last year's President's Trophy winning season. To put the finishing touches on one of the more exciting games we've seen in some time, new Capital Jason Arnott notched the GWG at 14:41 in the third - his first as a Washington Capital. The Arnott-Laich-Semin line seems to meshing well thus far - GMGM was quite the sneaky genius with his most recent additions. Final score: Caps 3 - Blues 2

    Finally, a huge Hockey Mom high five to Michal Neuvirth, who broke a team record earning his 21st win - the most ever by a rookie goalie! The boys are busy packing the swim trunks and fishing poles for this weekend's trip to the Sunshine State but there will be no rest for the weary as they'll face two tough opponents in back-to-back games.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Caps Make a Splash in the Trade Pool

    The calculating GMGM should be relaxing in a leather recliner enjoying a cold adult beverage of choice right now after a long day at the office. George McPhee was hard at work making several key trades at today's deadline to fill in the missing pieces on the Caps' roster. As our Eastern Conference rivals the Bruins, Flyers and the Penguins, bolstered their benches in early trading, GMGM waited until the waning minutes to pick up veteran center Jason Arnott.

    The beauty of today's actions on the part of GMGM is that he didn't give away the farm (literally, considering all the talent the team has housed in Hershey) and only traded one roster player (popular face off guru David Steckel). Yet he still made the moves he felt necessary to take the boys deep into the Cup race by plugging the second-line center hole and adding another defense man in the form of former Bruin and Panther Dennis Wideman.

    While Tom Poti is still on the injured list, Mike Green's head injury may keep him out of action for longer than was initially thought. Thus the pick up of Dennis Wideman (who played in Boston with another new Capital, Marco Sturm), provides some added insurance on the blue line and will hopefully help resuscitate the ailing power play. Wideman was brought in as part of a trade that sends prospect Jake Hauswirth and a third round draft pick to the Sunshine State. Wideman, 27, is a seven-year NHL veteran who has played for the St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins and the Panthers. The 6’, 200-pound defenseman has appeared in 439 career NHL games, recording 55 goals, 143 assists and 325 penalty minutes. This season, he has 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) and 33 penalty minutes while playing in 61 games for the Panthers.

    Wideman, who will wear No. 6 with the Capitals, set career highs in assists (37), points (50) and tied his career-high in goals (13) during the 2008-09 campaign with the Bruins. He also registered a career-high +32 rating and helped lead Boston to first overall in the Eastern Conference.

    Of course the other big news of the day was the addition of veteran center Jason Arnott from the New Jersey Devils. The bad news is that the team had to part with fan fave David Steckel as part of this deal (in addition to a second round pick in 2012). Arnott, who is in the twilight of his career, brings veteran leadership and lots of playoff experience to a young Capitals team. This big guy (6’5’’, 220-pounds) is a 19-year league vet with 1,161 career NHL games under his belt. He's recorded 369 goals, 501 assists and 1,208 penalty minutes during regular season games throughout his career. In addition, he has collected 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) and 74 penalty minutes in 106 career playoff games. A two-time NHL All-Star (1997, 2008), he won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2000, scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime period. This season, Arnott has 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) and 32 penalty minutes while playing in 62 games for the injury-depleted Devils.

    I for one can't wait to see the newest additions hit the ice tomorrow against the Islanders and am hoping these moves bring the consistency and energy this team has been lacking thus far this season. Welcome to Washington boys!

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Trade Deadline Eve - What will the Caps Do Tomorrow?

    HM is finally sitting down to write after a whirlwind weekend that marked our final two games of travel hockey. I got to watch Friday night's blowout at the hands of the Rangers (unfortunately, I might add), while I listened to the Caps/Islanders game en route home from a rink more than two hours away.

    While the boys walked away with the "W" last night, they still struggle with consistency (5 shots in the first period, really!?) and the power play is just plain dreadful. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. marks the end of the NHL's trade deadline and Caps fans are waiting with baited breath to see what GM George McPhee will do. He made his first move yesterday by putting enforcer DJ King on waivers, while claiming Marco Sturm from the Los Angeles Kings. So who is Marco Sturm?

    The German-born winger is a 14-year veteran of the league and has scored 20-or-more goals in each of his last seven full NHL seasons. He played in 17 games with the Kings this season, collecting nine points (four goals, five assists) and 17 penalty minutes. He began the season with the Boston Bruins and missed the first 32 games of the year (27 games with Boston, five games with Los Angeles) while recovering from a lower body injury. Sturm has appeared in 872 games with San Jose, Boston and Los Angeles, registering 475 points (238 goals, 237 assists) and 415 penalty minutes. In addition, he collected 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 52 career playoff games.

    Is the acquisition of Sturm the first of several? Mike Vogel shared his thoughts on the trade deadline as it relates to the Caps over at Dump n'Chase. Either way, the hours leading to the 3 o'clock deadline are sure to be action-packed as the experts track player movement and deal-making around the league! HM will have her ears to the ground for sure!

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Matt Hendricks Signs Two-Year Extension with Capitals

    While we still haven't seen any movement in the trade realm, Caps fans got some great news today as the team announced the extension of gritty Matt Hendricks to a two-year contract extension for $1.6 million. The former member of the Colorado Avalanche quickly gained a rep as a fan fave with his gregarious personality, ability to score and his willingness to drop the gloves at a moment's notice to take care of business. I for one am thrilled to pieces to see this guy sticking around for awhile - he is the epitomy of a heart and soul team player. Cheers to you, Hendy!

    Here's the official release from the team:

    ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed forward Matt Hendricks to a two-year extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Hendricks, a 6’0’’, 215-pound native of Blaine, Minn., has recorded a career-high 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) and 84 penalty minutes in 57 games this season with the Capitals. He also registered 121 hits this season, which ranks third on the team and second among forwards. Hendricks, 29, registered nine goals, seven assists and 74 penalty minutes in 56 games for the Avalanche during the 2009-10 NHL season.

    Hendricks, who made his NHL debut in 2008, has appeared in 117 career NHL games with Washington and Colorado, posting 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) and 171 penalty minutes. He also appeared in six postseason games with the Avalanche during their 2010 playoff run.

    Hendricks played for Capitals’ head coach Bruce Boudreau as a member of the Capitals’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hershey Bears in 2006-07. He recorded 18 goals and 26 assists for a total of 44 points in 65 regular season games that year. Hendricks also appeared in 19 AHL playoff matches that season, scoring eight goals and registering four assists.

    Hendricks, who was invited to the Capitals’ training camp on a tryout basis and signed a one-year deal on Sept. 27, 2010, was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the fifth round (131st overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Is GMGM Going to Make a Move Soon?

    As we see more Eastern Conference foes (including the dirty birds we saw last night) make a move prior to next week's NHL trade deadline, GMGM is sitting on his hands for now.

    More on that later, but first things first:

    Because you can never see enough of THAT! Fans around the league certainly tipped their hat to Professor Bradley after he annihialated uber-villain Matt Cooke last night.

    Back to the trade deadline.

    For hockey fans, the weeks preceding the annual NHL trade deadline set off more rumors than the latest cover of the National Enquirer. Several Eastern Conference rivals have already made a splash with pre-deadline trades, including the Bruins, Flyers, Lightning and most recently the Penguins, with the trade of Alex Goligoski for former Dallas players James Neal and Matt Niskanen. We’re now less than one week and counting until the official trade deadline, which will mark the end of all trade activity for the season. Whether rebuilding with young players or wheeling and dealing for grizzled vets to aid a deep playoff run, all teams must have their trades in place by 3 p.m., Monday, February 28.

    Caps fans are following the latest hockey happenings to see if GMGM makes any moves prior to the deadline. The rumors regarding potential trade targets and current Caps players at risk of being dealt are flying around like cherry blossoms in a March wind storm - HM has heard rumors of Semin, Laich, Perreault and others on the trade block. The majority of Capitals fans agree that despite the talent of youngsters Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault, the team has an obvious need for an experienced second line center. Another veteran who’s got a Stanley Cup under his belt would also be a welcome addition. The Capitals currently have a max cap hit of approximately $6.3 million, so there is some room to trade for the right piece(s) that will get this team closer to the Cup. So as we sit and wait to see if (or even when) the Capitals may make a move, you may want to follow TSN’s Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) and Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) on Twitter for the up-to-the-minute trades and rumor-busting - and happy shopping George McPhee!

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Mid Week Musings: Caps Face Another Tough Test in Cali

    First to all my readers, my apologies for no live blogs this week during the Caps' West coast swing. The late start times just don't work with my crazy, 6 a.m. wakeup, boys to school and me to work, sports, etc. schedule. I was able to catch most of Monday's game against Phoenix, but truth be told, I needed toothpicks to hold my eyelids open because once again, the boys just played yet another uninspired game. The Caps face another roadblock when they face the Anaheim Ducks tonight, and they'll do so without the services of Mike Green. Green is still having inner ear issues resulting from the puck to the ear he took against the Pens. But on the other end, the Ducks will be without their starting net minder, Jonas Hiller. Hiller is dealing with recurrent lightheadedness, which is a little concerning.

    Maybe if I don't watch tonight, the Caps will miraculously dig up their power play from whatever rock it's been hiding under since last season. Caps Nation is one divided these days, as the team continues to struggle. Some fans and media think a personnel shake up of some sort is in order (HM is among those who think the team needs to make some moves before the February 28 trade deadline) while others are content to wait until the playoffs to see if the boys can ramp it up. My other opinion, for what it's worth, is that there should be NO optional practices as long as the spark remains missing in action. And in his role as captain, Ovechkin should be at all practices unless he's injured or sick. Don't even get me started on Alex Semin taking the "option" - the hardest worker on the assembly line he is not. For cripes sake, I've watched my boys do "bag skates" (also dubbed 30-second drills) after losses, and they aren't playing hockey for a living.

    Here are just a few items of discourse regarding the current state of the Capitals that I found interesting, and am very much in agreement with much of OFB's assessment:

    So even though things aren't going as planned, we need to keep things in perspective and find a way to smile (even through tears). Well, several of the Caps brought smiles to the faces of disabled children through Hockey for Hope last Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they took to the ice with the kids for a hockey clinic. USA Hockey also had a feature on this extraordinary program.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Kings Rule Caps on Home Ice

    On the joyous occasion of my twin boys 15th birthday, we cheered on the Caps with high hopes of a big win on home ice in today's matinee showdown. The Caps came out with a spark with Ovi schooling L.A.'s Drew Doughty and sniping a rocket top shelf over Jonathan Bernier 66 seconds into the first period. Though we didn't see anything like the epic line brawl of last night’s Penguins/ Islanders buffoonery, DJ King did have a first period bout with the Kings' Kevin Westgarth. HM is certain that the hulking Caps enforcer would've been the victor had he not had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. The Caps held on to a 1-0 lead at the end of first, outshooting L.A. 8-4. Unfortunately the boys were taking too many of those shots from the perimeter and didn't light the lamp for the remainder of the first or into the second.

    The Kings tied the game at 10:41 in the second period as Anze Kopitar broke out of a 20-game scoring slump with some help from his pal Wayne Simmonds. Varly got caught low and couldn't recover while his help apparently lost all sight of the puck. Though the second period saw no additional scoring, the hitting ramped up with both teams tallying 22 hits by the period's final horn. L.A.'s Dustin Brown found out what it's like to run into a brick wall when he attempted to hit Ovechkin and was bounced off rudely by the Russian Machine. The boys ended the period shorthanded as Mike Green took a roughing penalty against Wayne Simmonds, knocking off his lid in the process.

    The Caps killed off the penalty opening the third period but the Kings scored again minutes later at even strength. The Kings eluded the Caps' defense and Kyle Clifford had a direct path to Varlamov's crease. Varly made the quick save but was unable to hold onto to the rebound. Andrei Loktionov made haste of swooping in and beat Varlamov to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

    The boys had two more power play chances, but in the end were 0 for 4. There are still no solid answers for the Caps' lack of success with the man-advantage despite being blessed with the same players that led the league last year. And any gusto that was evident in the first period flew out the doors of the Verizon Center with two more unanswered goals from the Kings. Michal Handzus lit it up at 13:28 while Jarett Stoll tallied a mere two minutes later. Bruce Boudreau was not pleased to say the least about his team's effort- or lack of- in the final stanza, and sat Brooks Laich and Alex Semin for the last six minutes.

    Final score: Kings 4 - Caps 1

    The Caps now head off on a long road trip in which they'll face the feisty Coyotes, the sizzling Flames, the always physical Ducks, the streaking Sharks, the Ryan-Miller led Sabres and of course our good pals the Penguins. The boys gathered for a players-only meeting after the game in hopes of regrouping and creating some much-needed synergy ahead of the crucial stretch run.

    Let's hope that everyone got to speak their piece and we see the urgency and effort in what looks to be a tough stretch ahead.