Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sean Avery a Lover, Not a Fighter?

A big thanks to the New York Rangers for blanking the New Jersey Devils last night (and that's probably the last time you'll hear Hockey Mom thanking the Rags for anything), enabling the Capitals to leap frog over the Devils for second spot in the East!

Of course I was also watching to see if Sean Avery would actually put his anger management skills he learned in rehab to work! I just knew we'd be seeing Avery "gets all up in Marty Brodeur's grill" round two - but looks like Avery was on his best behavior. When challenged by the Devils' David Clarkson, Avery refused to dance and Clarkson proceeded to toss him around like a Detroit Red Wings octopus.

If you missed it, here's a side of Sean Avery we don't see too often:

One word: WOW....

Now back to Caps Land. The guys are resting up and geting ready to meet the Islanders at the Phone Booth tomorrow night. The latest on injuries is that Brashear is still day-to-day and Boyd Gordon (wacky broken finger) may make it back in time for the playoffs. So only one more day until Caps hockey - I swear I have a complete lack of identity mixed with bouts of sadness and boredom for about a week after the season's over. Let's keep this season going until June - right boys?

I hope all of you fabulous Club Scarlet members make plans to join the gals for a skating event followed by a viewing party at Arlington's Front Page to watch the Caps take on the Thrash. Space is limited so reserve your spot today - $10 gets you ice skating rentals and ice time at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for a one-hour skate followed by two drink tickets (wine and beer) and appetizers during the watching party. Unfortunately, HM will not be able to show off my magnificent skating skills (ha ha!) with my fellow female Scarlet pals as my non-hockey loving sister will be visiting from the land of the Thrashers. For more info, visit the Club Scarlet web site - sounds like a blast ladies!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fisticuffs in Chitown...

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know as a mother of twins that I have an unbridled fascination with the Vancouver Canucks' Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel. The Nucks have risen from the bottom of the heap to clinch a playoff spot and last night's contest at the Chicago Blackhawk's United Center was a battle for home ice in the post-season.

Needless to say, this game got fugly after Dustin Byfuglien (try saying his name five times in a row after a cocktail or two) took a swipe at Vancouver's star netminder Roberto Luongo. One of craziest melees I've seen in a while ensued second later, as both teams got into an all-out line brawl. And for those of you (myself included) who made fun of Alex Semin's lack of nunchuk skills, check out all the playground martial arts hair-pulling that went on in this one:

And just when you though it was over, Round Two:

Yes folks, there are four Hawks in the box. This game resulted in about a gazillion (103 to be exact) penalty minutes - and don't you touch my Daniel Sedin! Looks like the teams still in the hunt have got a bad case of playoff fever...

On a more somber note, Hockey Mom got this great article from one of the boys' hockey coaches and a fellow hockey dad - a great coach and a die-hard Sabres fan. He's regaled us with stories of how he used to usher in the old "Aud" (the Sabres' long time home) as a teenager and how he used to have to frequently break up fights between fans whenever the New York Rangers came to town. But no one loved the Sabres and the "Aud" more than his late Aunt Nancy, who worked at the historic arena for more than 25 years. She sounded like quite a lady and I have a feeling that we would gotten along spendidly while dishing hockey!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Heee's Back! Cheers for Big #2....

Photo credit: Washington Capitals

In a game that was hyped to be all about "payback" on Ovie at the hands of the less-than-sizzling Lightning, the feel-good story of the evening was the game winning goal by d-man Brian Pothier. By now, most hockey fans know about Pothier's debilitating concussion, the struggle to find the evasive cure for his symptoms for more than 14 months and his determination to get back on the ice and contribute to the Caps' success. So I have to admit that Hockey Mom was alternating between screaming with joy and wiping a tear in honor of Potsy's game winner - which was a sweet slap shot from the blueline.

Pothier was definitely feeling the love from the thousands of red-rocking fans in attendance as well! So a big congrats to Brian and as Caps fans, we are thrilled to see you back!

Of course congrats are also in order for Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 52nd and 53rd against the Bolts, giving him 100 points on the season!

So now we go through a slight hockey withdrawal the next few days as the boys don't take the ice until next Wednesday's meeting with the New York Islanders. And in case you missed it, the Islander's net minder Joey McDonald blanked the Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings in a rare shut out last night. So hope the guys take advantage of this short break to get healthy, rested and come out with the energy, spunk and grit they showed the first part of the season....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Osala and Aucoin Called up from Hershey Bears

As Donald Brashear and Boyd Gordon are still on the mend, the Caps have recalled Keith Aucoin and Oskar Osala from the Hershey Bears, where they may get a chance to suit up against the Lightning tonight.

Aucoin has already played five games this year with the big club and has recorded one assist with the Caps. Caps fans may get their first look at the young talent Oskala, who may earn a Rookie of the Year nod this season.

From the team press release:

Osala, 21, is a first-year pro who made his NHL debut with the Capitals on Dec. 10 against Boston. He has 37 points (23g-14a) in 68 games with Hershey this year and is tied for second in the league in goals scored by a rookie. Osala wears No. 48 in Washington.

The 6’4”, 225-pound Vassa, Finland, native was the Capitals’ fourth-round choice, 97th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent last season with the Espoo Blues in Finland, recording 18 goals and 17 assists in 53 games on his way to being named the league’s Rookie of the Year.

How nice is it to be this stacked with talent, sports fans? C'mon boys, time to chase those thunder and lightning clouds away from "our house" and keep those points stacking up!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seriously, Enough Already with the Celebration...

As Gabby was getting the troops ready for the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of reporters from Canada's TSN descended wanting to talk about...guess what, oh no, not the Ovie celebration, again?

Aren't we done with that? Kaput? Finit? Geez, you guys remind me of my boys when they keep begging me for the new Easton Stealth hockey stick...waah waah waah! Seriously, some of the Canadian media just wants to keep rehashing this 15 seconds of celebration (or as my gal pals would say "that is SO last year) to refuel Don Cherry's cup of crazy. I dunno...but there are certainly other things to talk about. I for one, have been watching some tremendous games lately involving teams fighting for those last few playoff berths. For instance, Calgary versus the Pens last night (did you all manage to catch that monster hit from Dion Phaneuf on Evgeni Malkin?) - yowzah! My point is - there's lots more to talk about in the world of hockey these days and the Ovie stick dance is so not one of them anymore.

And of course, Gabby is in agreement and said as much in this press conference:

As far as retribution, the Lightning had close to three full periods to stop Ovie and they did nothing. Hockey Mom actually feels a bit for two of the Lightning's top talents, Vinny LeCavalier and Martin St. Louis, in that their talents are overshadowed by the off-the-ice circus that has become that hockey club. Their ownership group is like the "Dan Snyder" of the NHL - more money than sports sense and they've rotated players and coaches in and out of the St. Pete Forum more frequently than Madonna changes her hair color...

So guess we'll just wait and see the outcome of tomorrow's game, but if history is any indicator, all this overblown talk will do nothing but fire up the "Russian Machine"!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gerber Faces 3-Game Suspension

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to rely on the old guy Curtis Joseph, (who did an impressive job stopping the Caps last night after coming in stone cold - blast!) as Martin Gerber will most likely be dealt a 3-game suspension for shoving a ref last night.

If for some reason you gave up on the game due to the boredom factor in the first period, here's what happened:

He was charged with Category 3 abuse of an official. Who knew that the League uses the National Weather Service Hurricane rating system for such offenses? HM would hate to see a Category 5!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Crazy Third Period in Leaf Nation...

Thankfully looks like Alex Semin and his other sick team mates got some chicken soup in them, as Sasha was on the ice in Toronto tonight. Facing the Maple Leafs (who are way out of playoff contention), this game was a pretty much a sleeper for much of the first period. That was until Alex Ovechkin's beauty of a goal in the second to tie it up. And a Hockey Mom high five to Ovie, who donned a Coach's Corner t-shirt before dressing, per Capitals Insider, a tilt of the hand to his loudest critic - Don Cherry.

Pavel Kubina took the lead for the lowly Leafs in the final period. Then mayhem ensued as the Cap's Brooks Laich poked the puck in well into Martin Gerber's crease to tie at 2 apiece. But Gerber argued the legality of the goal and proceeded to push two refs, earning himself a game misconduct and a seat back in the dressing room! What is it with goalies going nutso this week? First, Providence Bruins net minder Tuukka Rask and then tonight's eruption from the Leaf's Gerber.

After Gerber threw his hissy fit and left the ice, the Leafs had to pull Curtis Joseph (CuJo) off the bench with mere seconds left in the third period. Joseph stopped a barrage of shots by the Caps to the loud applause of the Toronto fans. As the wild OT ended with no score, this one went into the shoot out. Theo (who had some beast saves in the game) was unsuccessful in stopping John Hamilton's shoot out attempt. CuJo denied Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin and AO, giving the Leafs a 3 - 2 victory.

Even though a few of the guys were under the weather, once again this was a team that the Caps should have dominated. They stepped it up in the third period, but it seemed like they were sluggish and made too many mistakes during the other two.

HM almost wishes the boys had a tougher schedule down the stretch to get back in the swing of playing "playoff" hockey now. Which means playing a full three periods of hockey at 110% effort with minimal mistakes.

Next up, the Lightning - who as we've all heard, were not so happy with Ovie's display and will be coming into the Phone Booth on Friday with a big chip on their shoulders.

Ovie Still Heads the Pack in MVP Race

Alex Ovechkin still holds the lead for his second consecutive NHL MVP Award (edging out fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin) according to USA Today's Power Rankings. Let's hope the Great Eight keeps those goals coming as we head down the playoff stretch!

The Caps will definitely need his "hot stick" tonight against the Leafs as Alex Semin, Matt Bradley and possibly others are suffering from the flu bug (that seems to be ever present this season in that locker room)! As a single hockey mom, I can't afford to get sick (and rarely do) - guys, Purell works wonders. Put a gallon or two in those hockey bags. It kills germs and might do something about the smell too if you're lucky. No seriously, we all hope the guys get better soon - you'll be missed tonight for sure.

The last time the Caps faced Ron Wilson's team (minus AO) - it wasn't pretty. We need an all-out effort from everyone on the ice tonight in Leaf Nation...

And for all you new fans, if you wanted to see what playoff hockey is like, last night's game between the rapscallion Flyers and the New Jersey Devils was a good one! Plenty of scrapping, lots of hard hitting and of course, brilliant goaltending with Brodeur in the crease. The Devils played a good game but were without Patrick Elias and alas, those dratted Flyers took the win.

Hopefully HM will be back later discussing a win for the men in red. Til then...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Get Well Soon Quintin

Just as Hockey Mom praised the return of the work horse that is Quintin Lang, I heard the bad news that he suffered an injury to his spleen and will miss the rest of the season.

Get well soon Quintin!

Caps Zap the Lightning: Ovi Nets Goal Number 50

After a sluggish start, the Capitals zapped the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at the St. Pete Times Forum. With a final score of 5 - 2 (which would have been 6 - 2, had Eric Fehr's "no goal" goal counted), the Caps got another nice showing from rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov, who held Vinny, Marty and the Bolts to a mere 2 tallies. HM was happy to see the call up of Quintin "The Human Shield" Lang to the Caps' bench - I was completely bummed when he was sent down to Hershey. That guy is a prime example of giving 100% on every shift and I frequently cite his efforts as an example to my own young hockey players.

Speaking of 100%, of course the highlight of the evening was Alex Ovechkin netting his 50th goal for the third time in four seasons! AO loves his props and he had his own unique celebratory "dance" to mark his tremendous feat - which didn't sit well with some folks, including Bolt's coach Rick Tocchet.

In case you missed it, check it out here:

Ovi's reaction reminded HM a little too much of TO and is sure to provide plenty of fodder for geezin' windbag Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada tomorrow. Nonetheless, AO has and always will be a passionate character (thank goodness) and team player (seen as he hugged Varlamov at game's end), and as far as I'm concerned he can celebrate however he likes as long as he keeps 'em coming!

Hugs and congrats to Ovi and to the Caps for another 2 points - jeez, is it almost playoff time yet?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why Do They Fight in Hockey Anyway?

Once again, the annual meeting of NHL General Managers this month focused on a topic that’s been the source of much controversy over the years: fighting. Like it or leave it, fighting has (since the early origins of hockey back in 19th century Canada) and probably always will be a part of the professional game.

But one of the questions that’s sometimes posed by hockey fans is “why do they fight anyway”? As the mom of twin thirteen year-old hockey players, my first guess would be the testosterone. Some days we have enough roughhousing and tussling in my house, it’s like an Ultimate Cage Fighting (of which Mike Green is a big fan, by the way) marathon on the Versus network.

In all seriousness, that has very little to do with why players fight in hockey. The fact that you have very large guys speeding around and checking each other at speeds faster than I roll along on my daily commute sometimes adds fuel to the fire, but there are other reasons that result in fisticuffs on the ice.

I recently posed a few questions on fighting to one of the most feared enforcers in the game – the Capitals’ own Donald Brashear. Donald started playing hockey when he was eight years old and dropped the gloves for the first time at the age of 17 when he was playing Junior hockey in Quebec. Because of his size and very physical play, it was no surprise that he assumed the role of enforcer in his professional career early on. When asked why fighting exists in the game, Brashear gave several reasons: “Sometimes fights occur to give the team a little spark, to wake up the guys and energize them and of course, to defend your team mates.”

Brashear also gave some insight into how a fight evolves. “I don’t know why they keep trying to take fighting away because the two guys fighting are two guys that agree to fight together. If it happens between a guy who doesn’t fight much and a guy who fights, it’s because the other guy must have done something wrong and when that happens he gets penalized.”

We saw several examples of fighting to defend a team mate in the game against the Nashville Predators (Brashear hasn’t been on the ice since that game after hurting his knee after a fight). These days, the league is seeing too many fighting incidents resulting from clean hits to players that are perceived as “dirty” by the opposing team. The General Managers are proposing new rules to cut down on these occurrences as well.

Every now and then, you’ll see the two tough guys drop the gloves and duke it out right at the face off. The GMs look at many of these types of fights as “staged” and are considering stricter penalties for such incidents. Brashear agrees with his frequent sparring partner from the Philadelphia Flyers, Riley Cote, that it may be hard for referees to determine whether or not a fight is staged, as many times fights occurring at the faceoff are a result of an incident that took place in a previous shift or even in a previous game.

One of the main reasons you see fighting is an effort on the part of the big guys to protect the star players. Example, if Alex Ovechkin had to drop the gloves every time another player took a run or cheap shot at him, he wouldn’t get a whole lot of scoring done. Now when opposing player who takes out of bounds liberties with AO or Nick Backstrom during the course of a game knows that the tough guy on his team will have to pay the piper with the “Donald”, Matt Bradley or John Erskine – that guy might think twice about taking that course of action. I know I would….

As volatile and spur-of-the-moment as some of the on-ice “dances” may seem, there are actually age-old rules of etiquette that players engaging in fights are expected to adhere to. Brashear mentioned the level of respect that enforcers have for each other and that their team mates have for them. He said “We have respect for the guys doing it. It’s a tough job, a hard job and a dangerous job. It’s a role you play and not everyone can do it. Most of our team mates respect what we are doing and the guys who are doing it respect each other.”

If you want to gain a better understanding of fighting in hockey, pick up a copy of the book The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL by Ross Bernstein. Unfortunately I can’t lend out my copy as it’s already making the rounds of some of my fellow hockey moms at the rink. I can tell you that the book provides a really interesting glimpse into the world of hockey and features some quips from Brashear himself.

One thing’s for sure, the debate over fighting in hockey is sure to continue. It’s especially interesting to hear the female fans perspective on fighting as there seems to be two extremes – gals either love it as part of the game or hate it and want to see it banned. As for me, I’m okay with fighting – it’s part of the game. And I’d rather NOT see it in my living room boys!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Caps Answer the Cat Call: Caps 3 - Panthers 0

So after Tuesday night's debaucle against a much-lower ranked Thrashers team, the Capitals aimed to redeem themselves against a Florida Panthers team clawing for a playoff spot. Coach Boudreau was livid, as well he should be, by Tuesday's lack of effort, defensive breakdowns and unwillingness to crash the net.

While tonight's win wasn't perfect, the coach's message must have been heard loud and clear. Bolstered by the return of Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green, the boys looked like a different team from the one we saw in Atlanta (thank our lucky stars)! Brooks Laich spent a large part of the evening exactly where he should be - with his bad self parked in front of Tomas Vokoun's crease. Laich also netted the Cap's first tally (a shortie, no less) with an assist from tough guy John Erskine.

Big Viktor Kozlov got on the board for the second Capital's goal and the visitors held the Cats scoreless. Despite valiant efforts from former Cap Richard Zednik and friends, the Cap's "d" did not allow the Panthers a shot on goal during an entire third period! Mike Green made an empty-netter to finish this one up with a final score of 3 - 0. HM can almost hear the clinking of Guinness mugs as the Caps' faithful toast to St. Patrick's Day and a nicely done victory.

Speaking of St. Patrick (Patrick Roy that is), he no longer holds the title of NHL goalie with the most wins. I was flipping back and forth between the Caps/Panthers and New Jersey Devils/Chicago Blackhawks games to make sure I caught NHL history should it be made by Devils' goal tender Martin Brodeur this evening. As expected, Brodeur surpassed Roy's record by recording his 552nd NHL win tonight. A big Hockey Mom toast to Marty on this historic occasion as well as to his hockey mom and hockey dad (who was a former photographer for the Montreal Canadiens) who drove him back and forth from the rink all those years!

Next up, the Caps road trip continues with a vist to the not-so-hot Tampa Bay Lightning. But as we've learned the hard way, you can't take any team for granted in this push to the playoffs!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caps May See the Return of D-Man Brian Pothier

It's been a long time coming but Caps fans may be soon cheering on defenseman Brian Pothier who's been recalled from the Hershey Bears. A fan favorite, Pothier has been out of commission since suffering a debilitating concussion on January 3, 2008, courtesy of the Boston Bruins' big boy Milan Lucic. It's been a long road to recovery for Brian and this is fabulous news for him, his family and the team.

From the team press release:

Pothier recently completed a four-game conditioning stint with the Bears and is available to make his season debut with the Capitals tomorrow night in Atlanta, the same city where he made his NHL debut nearly eight years ago (April 3, 2001, as a Thrasher).

The 6’0”, 200-pound native of New Bedford, Mass., is a veteran of seven NHL seasons and has compiled 100 points (20 goals, 80 assists) in 292 career games. In his only full season with the Capitals, 2006-07, he led all club defensemen in points (28) and assists (25) and led the team in ice time (23:59 per game) while appearing in 72 games.

Also recalled was young goalie phenom Simeon Varlamov.

Should Pothier see a return to action against the Thrashers tomorrow, I know HM along with Caps fans united will be cheering to see him healthy and for the boost he gives to the blueline!

Hurricanes Downgraded In Shoot Out Loss to Caps

Last night Hockey Mom and her hockey boys were in the house to witness the Caps' victory (albeit a bit sloppy defensively at times, guys) shoot out victory over the Carolina Hurricanes - who are still clawing for a playoff spot. It was actually a historic moment for my boys as they saw their first live shoot out. And what a shoot out it was as Alex the Great netted a SO goal in our end!

Speaking of Alexs, what about Alex Semin? The Caps' own young gun had a goal, three assists plus a shoot out tally! So maybe we can forgive him for that silly hooking penalty in the second period. All four of the "young guns" got on the scoreboard last night with goals from Ovie, Semin, Backstrom and Green. But Carolina's own young guns weren't going to make this one an easy win on the boys in red and saw two goals from Eric Staal (of the fabulously talented Staal brothers) - one of those assisted by his old pal Erik Cole. Cole recently returned to his former Hurricanes team in a trade from the Edmonton Oilers. Those two are a dynamic duo indeed and the Caps will be making a visit to their house next Saturday.

Jose Theodore had another magnificent game as well. The French-speaking couple next to me were cheering for opposing teams (he for the Canes and she for the Caps) and the lovely young lady cheered on Theo in Jose's native language. Her cheering sounded much more sophisticated than HM's as she yelled out "allez" at every puck drop or hit!

So even though the Caps got the "v", looks like they still need to do some tightening up on the defensive front. And the other teams on the hunt in the Eastern Conference race keep rolling as well. Most specifically the New Jersey Devils, whose superman goaltender Martin Brodeur made history last night by matching Patrick Roy's record for most wins with his 551st regular season victory. With Roy in attendance, Marty won the historic game against his hometown team, the Montreal Canadiens. Even though I am a die-hard Caps fan, HM has to propose a toast to Brodeur for his accomplishment - the guy is still amazing to watch, especially after returning to prime form after being out months following elbow surgery!

Up next for the Caps, a St. Patrick's Day meeting with the blue Atlanta Thrashers and Ovi's pal Ilya Kovalchuk. Stay tuned....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Call in the Hanson Bros: Caps Take on Flyers

So it's no secret that the Philadelphia Flyers are one of the most thugmongering teams in the league (and you thought Nashville was bad). They are also one of the scariest offensively as Jeff Carter boasts 38 goals on the season. Their offense may get a little stronger tonight as Daniel Briere may see a return to the action after suffering another groin injury.

Tonight's game at loud and rude Wachovia Center in Philly is bound to be a biggie with playoff energy and lots of leftover animocity from the previous meetings (think last season's Playoff Game 7) between these two teams. And as HM mentioned before, the Flyers have buffed up their thug factor even more with the addition of Daniel Carcillo from the Phoenix Coyotes. This young bad boy has even more penalty minutes than Scott Hartnell (of the Ronald McDonald mane - you can't miss him), Arron Asham, and Riley Cote with a total of 195 PIM so far!

Unfortunately, the Caps look like might be without the services of Riley Cote's favorite dance partner, Donald Brashear, who tweaked his knee during his bout with Wade Belak the other evening. And Matt Bradley has a pretty banged up face from taking a head butt from Jordin Tootoo. That Tootoo doesn't seem too bright anyhow - he was noted for dating brainiac Kellie Pickler of American Idol fame.

HM has a pal who she successfully converted to hockey fandom last season, who I'll call "Feds Fan." Now Feds Fan doesn't like violent movies, boxing or any of the craziness that takes place in cages on the Versus Network, but she loves a good hockey fight! She was so excited about all three bouts that took place in the Predators game - it was hilarious! With all the debate going on at the NHL's General Managers meeting regarding fighting, HM will be touching more on that subject very soon.

In the meantime, big game tonight as the Flyers are only one spot behind the Caps in the Eastern Conference standings and will be pumped playing in front of their raucous, orange-clad home fans.

HM won't be able to watch the whole game as the boys' have another sporting engagement (I know - hard to believe, huh) this evening but I'll be racing to catch as much as I can.

I was thinking - with Brash being a "maybe" for tonight, does anyone have the phone number for the Hanson Brothers? Anyone? Anyone?

If you get in touch with them, tell them Hockey Mom will bring the matchbox cars. Let's Go CAPS!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Caps Meet Hot Western Preds

Maybe they are fueled by the spirit of Elvis himself, but the Nasvhille Predators have are a mighty hard team to beat at home (especially with some of country music's hottest stars cheering them on)! Be that as it may, the Capitals hoped to stop the music in a rare meeting with the Western Conference Preds.

Hockey Mom missed the first few minutes of this one as I was at the boys' house league Pee Wee championship game. Both teams played with tremendous energy (wish the Caps had channeled some of it in their last few losses) and the twins' team scored the winning goal with less than 40 seconds left! Congrats to both teams for an outstanding season and exciting championship game...

So as the NHL's General Managers meet in Florida to discuss such issues as fighting and hits to the head, tonight's contest saw plenty of fisticuffs in the first period! HM was surprised that this game got so chippy so quickly but then again, the Preds have some pesky agitators in the form of Shea Weber, Jordin Tootoo and Wade Belak. Belak threw down with "The Donald" early on in the first period and I swear that was one of the few times I've ever seen Brash taken down. Shortly thereafter, Matt Bradley did the waltz with Jordin Tootoo (who removed the tape from his hands prior to giving Brads a bloody schnozz). Unfortunately, the big man Brashear did not return to the game (and we'll need him when the boys face the thugnoxious Flyers on Thursday).

Shaone Morrison had a brutal hit on Preds star Jason Arnott, who also did not return to the ice. Despite losing one of their key players, the Preds got on the board first with a Ryan Suter goal.

I don't know what's up with the flu bug biting NHL goalies (maybe they need to use some of HM's Purell), but Nashville's Pekka Rinne was ailing and replaced by backup netminder Dan Ellis, who did a pretty stellar job against the visitors. He was helpless to stop the beauty from Nick Backstrom which tied the game at one apiece in the second period. Tomas Fleischmann thought he'd netted the second goal of the evening for the Caps, but it was ruled as no goal due as the officials decided it may have been kicked in.

Dadgummit, just when HM has to go to bed (boy's early power skating clinc tomorrow), this one goes to overtime! In a fabulous finish, Sergei Fedorov netted the game winner and the Caps hope to get back to their winning ways. Way to go guys!

Final from Music City: Caps 2 - Predators 1

And in case you haven't already seen it, here's some hilarious video of Ovi's recent Eastern Motors commercial shoot:

Hockey Mom, like many other Washington area residents, has that darn Eastern Motors theme song stuck in my head. D.C. Sports Bog has more info on how the Great 8 became another notorious Eastern Motors spokesman. Ovi - we love ya, but it's a good thing you have a day job! Nice dance moves though...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rivalry Weekend: Caps Face Hated Penguins

So Hockey Mom sold her lovely club-level seats for today's battle against Cindy Crosby and his new and improved Penguins pals in anticipation that the boys' team would be playing for the League championship today. The good news is that their team won the regular season championship but the bad news is that they dropped the game after taking a pretty significant lead in the first period. The most disappointing part was that even though the opposing team had some incredibly talented kids on their team, some of their parents exhibited embarrassingly bad behavior in the stands. During our last game against this team, one guy ranted and raved at the refs to get a delay of game call as our coaches skated one our injured players (who suffered a broken collarbone for pete's sake) off the ice. Makes it really hard to wish a team well if those are the kinds of lessons and behaviors some kids' parents are teaching them (to win at at all costs). Now I get as fired up as anyone else but in the end I realize that it is just a game and the kids need to learn that you win some and lose some and sportsmanship is key on and off the ice.

So enough about that and onto the big news of the day which is the final regular season meeting of uber-rivals Capitals and Penguins. Fans and the media waited in anticipation to see how quickly the fireworks left over from the game would reignite into fisticuffs between Ovi and Crosby.

The boys in red definitely came back and played with the fever they've been missing the last few games and the hitting was off the charts. Tom Poti was dressed to help the defense, who've been fizzling as of late. And of course the Caps' faithful showed up in force, sporting pacifiers, Kleenex tissues and "No Diving" signs to express their dislike for the Penguin's famous Captain. Much to our dismay, it was Cindy that lit the lamp first for the dreaded Pens.

Alex Semin would have none of that and tied it up with a fabulous stick move made while balancing on one skate - another highlight reel goal for sure! His fellow countryman and former Capital Sergei Gonchar made his contribution to the physicality and intensity of this game, going to the sin bin twice in the first period alone for roughing and cross checking, respectively. But he emerged in the second period with a slap shot goal on Theo to give the Pens a 1-goal lead. New Penguin and former Islander Bill Guerin lit the lamp a third time for Pittsburgh, giving them a 2-point advantage.

The "Comeback Caps" did just that in the third with nearly back-to-back goals from Ovi and Brooks Laich to tie it at three each. And this one got even more exciting as we went into OT. Jose Theodore had some spectacular saves on both Crosby and Malkin yet despite having almost a 10 shots on goal advantage, the Caps were never able to "unleash the fury" as they did in the last meeting. This game was a heated battle until the bitter end and HM is shocked that there wasn't any throwing down the gloves, despite the exchanges of pleasantries following practically every whistle.

So this baby went into a shoot out - leaving Cap's fans at the edge of their seats. Semin, Kozlov and Ovi were all stopped at the gate by Pens' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Theo then denied an attempt by shoot out wiz kid Kris Letang of the Penguins. But in the end, it was the highly disliked Sid the Kid who got the better of the Cap's net minder and won the game 4 - 3 for the visitors. Tough weekend for all of HM's teams - I feel like I need a Calgon moment.

Next up for the Capitals is a road game against the Nashville Predators - who recently schooled the Detroit Red Wings with a score of 8-0 (big ouch)!

In closing, Hockey Mom would also like to join hockey fans around the world in extending my condolences to one of the greatest hockey moms and ambassadors the game has ever known: Colleen Howe. The wife of Red Wings legend Gordie Howe (also known affectionately as "Mr. Hockey") passed away on Friday. Her contributions as a mom, wife, business woman, community activist and to the wonderful game of hockey, will never be forgotten.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: Caps 1 - Leafs 2

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Canes Blow into D.C. as Trade Rumors Swirl

The day before the NHL trade deadline, Caps fans waited with baited breath to see if there will be any player movement by GM George McPhee and filed into the seats of the Phone Booth for a stint with the Carolina Hurricanes. If you were one of the thousands rocking the red at Verizon this evening, you got to see several of my twins' Pee Wee team mates accompany the Caps as honorary flag bearers on the ice this evening. Nice job representing boys!

These guys have worked hard all season and won the 2008-2009 CBHL Pee Wee A Regular Season Division Championship on Sunday! HM had to sell her tickets to see Cindy versus Ovie (Round Two) this Sunday as the boys will playing in the CBHL Playoffs in Yorktown. They'll definitely be facing some tough competition. Speaking of working hard, check out this story about another local player who is playing for the prestigious United States Air Force Academy. Not only is Matt Fairchild talented on the ice, he is an exceptional student as well - you have to be to attend one of our country's great service academies. HM wishes him continued success as a member of the AFA's Falcons team and as he serves our country in the future as an Air Force officer!

And a happy birthday to Alex Semin - who had a fantabulous game (wish I could say the same for the rest of the guys - defense, anyone) with a terrific goal scored while sliding to the ice on his knees. Sasha will probably be waking up with a slight headache tomorrow, but unfortunately not from post-game birthday cocktails. He took a nasty head-first hit into the boards in the second period, drawing a blatant boarding call on the Cane's Joni Pitkanen.

Tonight's game was one HM would like to forget as the Hurricanes blew away our home team with goals from Eric Staal, Matt Cullen, Chad LaRose and two from Patrick Eaves. And of course, the Canes have a goalie that has already won a Stanley Cup in Cam Ward. Unfortunately, the Caps were without Jose Theodore (down with the flu) and Tom Poti (supposedly bothered by that recurring groin injury - hope his absence is not trade-related).

So the Hurricanes won this one handily despite a third period goal by Sergei Fedorov (assisted by birthday boy Semin) with a final score of 5 -2. This the second loss to a Southeastern Conference team on home ice in so many days and a hard one for Caps fans to swallow.

By this time tomorrow, we'll know if George McPhee has made any moves - of course we are hoping he'll do something to beef up the defense. The clock is ticking....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cats Pounce Caps at Home: 6 - 2

For a few minutes in the first period, the Capitals were actually "in" today's game against the Southeast rival Florida Panthers in front of yet another sell-out Verizon Center crowd. Thanks to a quick power play goal courtesy of Alex Semin, the boys looked like they were on the right track from the get-go. Alas, it was all downhill from there as the Panthers went on an offensive rampage, due to defensive breakdowns and another revolving door in and out of the penalty box (7 times) on the part of the Capitals. Caps fans haven't experienced that kind of lackluster loss since the 7-1 fiasco at the hands of Filthadelphia and HM hopes we don't see another one for a long time.

Don't look now, but the N.J. Devils are moving fast and furious towards the top spot in the East as Marty's (Brodeur) back in net and has had shut outs in the 2 games since his return. Time to regroup and get their heads together for Tuesday's contest against Carolina (and to see if this week sees any trade transactions by GM George McPhee before Wednesday's deadline). Chris Pronger, anyone? That GMGM is a sneaky devil - it's always fun to wait and see if he has anything up his sleeve - kinda of like waiting to see what Santa Clause brought...

Of course the other big news was Don Cherry's rant against Alex Ovechkin's unorthodox celebrations and exhuberance on the ice during last night's HNIC. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here, unbelievable:

Now we hockey fans know that Mr. Cherry speaks his mind and is a proud Canadian (which is wonderful), but who knew he had such a problem with European and Russian players in the league? Sorry Don, HM has to throw the flag down on this one. You are way off-base and way out of line. Yes, Sidney Crosby is a talented player but the kid is plain vanilla (and not even french vanilla, just plain ole vanilla). Ovechkin is a double chocolate-pistachio-cotton candy sundae with whipped cream and oodles of colorful sprinkles on top, whether you like it or not.

And as a hockey mom, I would LOVE for my kids to exhibit the passion and excitement for the game that Alex demonstrates night after night. And not only when he scores either. He is just as exuberant when one of his team mates scores - the ultimate display of team work and sportsmanship! HM listens to Hockey This Morning every morning on the way to work (helps keep me up to date on all the hockey happenings and a great distraction to prevent road rage) and I think HTM's Shawn Lavigne sums up this situation perfectly here.

And being the personality that he is, AO had this response to Cherry's not-so-popular opinion:

"Don Cherry?" Ovechkin said. "What I can say? He's a funny guy, old guy. He likes old-fashioned hockey, so he don't like probably my celebrations. He said a lot of stuff about [Atlanta all-star Ilya] Kovalchuk and me, so he ...I don't know. I don't want to talk about him. He's not interesting to me. He can say whatever he want. I don't care about him."

Read the rest courtesy of Tarik at Capital Insider. So there, Don Cherry - just take your pint of boring vanilla ice cream home and stop the madness!