Monday, November 30, 2009

Ovie Leaves Game as Canes Host Caps

First off, I hope all of you sports fans had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend! HM spent the weekend shuttling between two different tournaments in two states for the twins and almost got into a shouting match with some parents (their home state will remain unmentioned to protect the innocent) who thought that they should've been wearing the stripes. Let's just say that some of these hockey parents would've fit in perfectly with Tony and the gang hanging outside of Satriales butcher shop -scary. Our kids did get the chance to see Mike Knuble and Alex Semin skate before our game at Kettler on Sunday - hope to see them back very soon.

So forgive me for being out of commission for this weekend's Caps action but I did hear the Backstrom game winner on my trusty XM radio on the way home from the rink.

Tonight the boys headed down south to Raleigh to face their Southeastern foes, the Carolina Hurricanes, who've been struggling and have had a bad rash of injuries, among the injured is their Cup-winning goalie Cam Ward. So the Caps faced Michael Leighton in net while Jose Theodore got his first start in quite a few outings. The boys came out of the gate a little slow and the Canes lit the lamp first with a backhand goal from Joe Corvo. No worries for the Caps, as Nick Backstrom (who had an absolutely stellar evening) tipped one in to tie it two minutes later. But after those two scores, the first period got a little weird in more ways than one. Canes' scorer Joe Corvo went down (apparently with a cut from a skate) after an accidental run in with Karl Alzner. Of course the game's big story was the major penalty and injury (severity as of now is unknown) to Alex Ovechkin. As AO was going in for a hit on Tim Gleason, he came in low and went knee on knee sending both players down in a heap. But Ovie stayed down for quite some time in obvious pain and then needed assistance leaving the ice, to the dismay of Caps fans worldwide. The knee-on-knee drew an automatic five-minute major and game misconduct, his second in a week after the boarding call last week against Patrick Kaleta. We should know more on the extent of his injuries tomorrow and HM will be keeping her ears to the ground for the latest. As of 9:16 p.m., this was the message I received from the Caps' PR staff: Alex Ovechkin was injured in the first period of this evening’s game at Carolina; the Washington Capitals do not anticipate having an update on Ovechkin’s status until tomorrow. This latest offense could definitely draw additional punishment from the League - we'll have to wait and see.

The guys regrouped after the loss of their top player and Eric Fehr scored late in the first courtesy of a lovely Backstrom feed. End of the first period: Caps 2 - Canes 1

The second period saw a great effort from Jose Theodore as the Canes saw two power plays. Nick Backstrom netted his second goal to give him three points on the night and give the Caps a two goal lead. End of the second period: Caps 3 - Canes 1

Carolina's Tim Gleason might have been out for some revenge early in the third as he laid a major hit on not-so-large Mathieu Perreault and headed off for a seat in the box as a result. Tomas Fleischmann had an outstanding backhander that would have given the boys a 4-1 lead but Michael Leighton stopped him dead in his tracks. The Canes' tempers started boiling over in the final period as Andrew Alberts gave his team another boarding call for face-washing a guy in a white sweater. The party just deteriorated from there as Erik Cole pretty much mauled Brooks Laich with no call and then a complete melee erupted in front of the Cane's crease with most of the action taking place between Tim Gleason and young Tyler Sloan (who both took a seat). Gleason got a 10-minute misconduct for his part in the scrum. Eric Fehr got charged with a high-stick with less than two minutes left leaving his pals short-handed. In the flurry of power play shots that followed, Jose Theodore made a magnificent glove save on the Cane's Eric Staal. Matt Cullen wound up and blasted one past Theo with 15 seconds left to come within one goal but it was not enough. Great game for Jose as well as Nick Backstrom against a feisty Canes team! Final score: Caps 3 - Canes 2

And the bonehead play of the year goes to a fellow Southeastern conference player from the Florida Panthers team (who we'll see on Thursday). Check out this craziness from Keith Ballard as he takes out his own goalie in a hissy fit:

Wow - HM is thinking he may need to take up meditation (or find out where Sean Avery took his anger management classes)...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Live from the Press Box: Caps/Sabres

The Caps returned home to the Phone Booth to meet the Buffalo Sabres this evening and HM was in the house for all the action. The Sabres currently sit at the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with 50 points. Prior to the national anthen (which was delivered beautifully by one of the most talented youngsters I've ever heard), the arena went silent in honor of the great Abe Pollin.

The Capitals saw the return of Juice (Milan Jurcina) as well as the addition of fan fave Karl Alzner from Hershey to the bench. Alzner showed lots of energy and hockey smarts in the opening minutes in his first few shifts. Bruce Boudreau was getting ready for Turkey Day by doing some mixing of his lines in the first period. Ovie lit the lamp first with an even-strength goal, assisted by Jeff Schultz. The boys faced a tough foe in Sabres' net minder Ryan Miller, who holds a .931 save percentage. The first period definitely saw those guys in the white sweaters hanging out in the Caps' zone a little more than Hockey Mom would have liked, yet Varlamov did a good job of shooing them away. Especially considering the shots on goal favored the Sabres by 9-2 by the 5:37 mark! Mike Green had a stellar slap shot opportunity with less than 20 seconds remaining in the period but was swiped out of mid-air by Miller.

The second period opened with a barrage of Capitals' shots against the Sabres and once again Mike Green had a bullet that was gobbled up by Miller Time. I duly noted that Miller loves to come way out of his house to play the puck. And it happened so fast I didn't catch the number, but Brian Pothier pretty much wrecked a Sabres player with a nasty hip check early on the second and the intensity certainly seemed to ramp up from that point. Potsy also got in the way of an excellent scoring opportunity for Buffalo midway through - he had an exceptional showing all around tonight!

The action continued end to end but no more scoring in the second period (Ovie did do a lovely job of absolutely leveling Derek Roy in the corner though) and we went into the end of the period holding the
1-0 lead.

The boys opened the final period with a sweet Pothier to Matt Bradley combo that was denied by Miller. Then the crowd went nuts when the Great8 took a call for boarding Patrick Kaleta, which also earned a harsh five-minute minute misconduct (note: this was the first penalty of the game). The second penalty came less than two minutes later as Buffalo went short-handed for tripping. This place went wild in applause and the fans gave the boys a standing ovation for an amazing five-minute long penalty kill which actually yielded a few nice short-handed scoring chances!

Mike Green took a seat a few minutes later and Varly was a wall on the resulting Sabres power play. The Caps lit the lamp for the second time on a tally from Eric Fehr, with help from his friends Brendan Morrison and Mike Green.

So the boys held on for a final score of 2-0. A great effort tonight and they went all out for the full 60 minutes. The mood in the room after the game was upbeat and several players including Brian Pothier and Jay Beagle gave kudos to Semyon Varlamov for his outstanding contributions in net tonight.

So congrats, boys on a lovely home win and Hockey Mom is signing off and wishing you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

D.C. Mourns the Passing of Sports Icon Abe Pollin

D.C. sports fans and the Washington community are remembering sports icon Abe Pollin today, after his passing yesterday at the age of 85. Pollin was the visionary that brought the Verizon Center to D.C., creating a world-class entertainment facility and revitalizing the downtown area. In the sports community, he will be remembered for bringing the Washington Wizards and our beloved Capitals to the city and supporting them through thick and thin. In addition to his business successes and notoriety as owner of two professional sports franchises, he was also an extraordinary philanthropist who gave his all to the city he loved so dearly. Pollin built housing for people of all income levels and spearheaded countless charity drives and events to provide for the city's less fortunate.

He sold the Capitals to majority owner Ted Leonsis in 1999. Here is Leonsis' official statement on the passing of Abe Pollin:

Nov. 24, 2009

Ted Leonsis
Majority Owner
Lincoln Holdings

Statement on the passing of Abe Pollin

We are all saddened by the news of Mr. Pollin’s passing. We extend our deepest sympathies to Irene, Robert, Jimmy, the rest of the Pollin family and his many friends and join them, and all of Washington, in mourning a great man.

Mr. Pollin was a model philanthropist, an icon in the sports world and the individual responsible for founding the Capitals and bringing an NBA championship to our city. He was the catalyst in building a fabulous downtown arena that revitalized the surrounding area. Anyone walking down 7th Street, seeing the throngs of excited fans, the host of popular restaurants, hotels and nightspots, can attest to the lasting legacy of Mr. Pollin’s deep commitment to D.C.

My partners and I were proud to work with him and his family during the last ten years and we are committed to continuing his tradition of building exciting, championship-caliber teams. When Lincoln Holdings bought the Capitals and a substantial percentage of Washington Sports & Entertainment from Mr. Pollin in 1999, he gave us the exclusive right to purchase the remaining portion of the Wizards, Verizon Center and the local Ticketmaster franchise. That agreement established an orderly process for conducting that transaction and it is our intention to follow that process. Now is not the time, however, to discuss that subject; our focus now should be on mourning a great man who has done so much for our city.

Tonight, as I walk down Abe Pollin Way into the Verizon Center to watch the Caps take on the Buffalo Sabres, I'll be sure to say a little prayer and a big thank you in honor of this great man who gave so much to our city....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Injury Ravaged Caps Visit Canadian Capital

First of all, HM wants to join her fellow Caps fans in wishing young Nick Backstrom a very happy birthday! Backstrom spent his big day battling the Ottawa Senators, along with his injury depleted team mates. The boys are still without seven of their mates, who are suffering from a wide range of injuries from broken fingers to concussions. Accordingly, Gabby changed his lines up a bit, moving Chris Clark up to the top line with Ovechkin and the birthday boy himself.

Semyon Varlamov got the nod in net for the Caps and made several impressive stops in the first period, including a butterfly stonewall on Sens bad boy, Jarko Ruutu. Unfortunately he was unable to stop one from Peter Regin and the Senators got on the board first. About five minutes later, Chris Clark lit the lamp for the visitors with a wacky bounce that went off his skate courtesy of a sweet Brian Pothier pass. The play went to review by Toronto but was deemed a good goal and dadgum it, we'll take it! With less than three minutes left in the first period, Brendan Morrison tipped one in on Sens goalie Brian Elliot and the boys went into the dressing room with a 2-1 lead.

The Caps got a power play opportunity early in the second thanks to another Chris Kelly goof, but were unable to convert. But later in the period the feisty Jay Beagle netted his first NHL goal after an ugly giveaway by the Sens' Jonathan Cheechoo to give the his team a two-goal edge. Please join me in raising a glass to this fine young man on this joyous occasion!

Brian Elliott was the recipient of a barrage of Capitals' shots his way late in the second but the boys ended the period with a 3-1 score. The Senators tried to get something started as Matt Carkner and their resident enforcer Chris Neil both invited John Erskine to dance, to which he politely declined.

Neil, sporting a fresh shiner from some altercation or another, got the Senators on the board again in the third with a deflection that Varly had no way of seeing. Alex Ovechkin blessed the Sens with a man advantage after he took a roughing call against Chris Campoli. And blast if Alex Pickard didn't tie it up on the resulting power play!

Things started getting chippy midway through the third and the Caps' treks to the sin bin continued as John Erskine was called for high sticking. The penalty killers and Varlamov were magnificent in keeping the Sens off the board. The Caps got a bit lucky thanks to another outstanding save by Varly as Mike Green made quite the scary giveaway inches from the Caps' net. They got another lucky break at the 6:30 mark as the Senators had a sloppy line change and had six skaters on the ice for about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, the guys didn't get on the board on the resulting power play. A little too much passing and not enough shooting going on there boys - power play was not pretty tonight for sure. With three minutes left in the period, Chris Clark tripped up Carrie Underwood's sweetie Mike Fisher and the Senators had yet another power play. Again the PK unit and Varly came up big to deny the Sens.

And here we went again folks, yet another OT decision for the Caps. The guys found themselves on the losing side of a few 2 on 1s in the additional minutes and Varly was able to make a spectacular save against Jason Spezza. But he got caught on another deflection from the Sens and Mike Fisher netted the game-winner for the home team. Final score: Senators 4 - Caps 3

So this has not been a happy visit with our neighbors to the north after back-to-back losses to the Maple Leafs and the Senators. Let's hope we see a few more players back on the bench, a stronger effort and few or no penalties in the latter periods come Wednesday, when the Buffalo Sabres pay a pre-Thanksgiving visit to Verizon Center.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tough Weekend for Caps

My apologies for not keeping up with all the action this weekend but it was a crazy hockey weekend in HM's household. And as you all know by now, a tough weekend of back-to-back losses for the Capitals, who have been bitten hard by the injury bug and seemed to be experiencing a hangover from Friday's loss to the bleu, blanc and rouge Canadiens. (Sidebar: a ginormous Hockey Mom high five here to big bad John Erskine for dropping the mitts with one of the toughest fighters in the league, Georges Laraque). Laraque is the subject of rumblings from the Detroit Red Wings organization today over a controversial knee-on-knee hit on their own freight train in residence, Niklas Kronwall, yesterday.

I missed the majority of last night's loss to the low-ranked Toronto Maple Leafs as I was watching some of the best non-professional hockey in the D.C. area in a contest between the Washington Junior Nationals and the Binghamton Senators. Capitals' great Peter Bondra was in the house as well to watch his son, who is quite a player in his own right! I had the most wonderful chat with a mom who also has a son on the team, who is a twin. We had a blast talking hockey and swapping twin stories - hockey parents are some of the most fantastic people you'll ever run across! I got home just in time to catch OT in the Caps/Leafs game. I could not believe that the game had come to a tie against the bottom-dwelling Leafs, but as Coach Boudreau has said time and time again, there are no easy games in the NHL. Varly had a fantastic game, stopping 38 of 39 shots, but wasn't able to stop the Leaf's Niklas Hagman from netting the shootout winner.

Still a point is a point and we can only hope that the boys get plenty of rest today as they face a tough Ottawa Senators club tomorrow night. The Sens are coming off of a huge win against the Buffalo Sabres, led by their captain Daniel Afredsson with two goals and an assist. The Senators' captain has 23 points on the season, followed by Carrie Underwood's beau, the dashing Mike Fisher who's notched 20 of his own. Alexei Kovalev may be also back on the bench in time for their meeting with the Caps after suffering a death in his family, which would bolster the Sen's offensive threat even more. And don't forget about Jason Spezza, who's always one to watch with those kids from the Canadian capital!

Puck drops tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. in Scotiabank Place. Maybe we should start making our lists for Santa now, a healthy Caps bench would be certainly make for a bright holiday season!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Caps Host Sell-Out Hockey N'Heels

Tyler Sloan talks with attendees during the on-ice skills demo.

The Capitals hosted another successful Hockey N'Heels event tonight, celebrating the unique female fans who faithfully rock the red and whose numbers have been growing dramatically since the team created the Scarlet Caps program! There were more than 300 ladies in attendance both young and old and tickets for this year's event sold out in less than 30 minutes. Hockey Mom ran into several of her fellow hockey moms at the on-ice session and we joked about the dads having to drive to practice tonight. I also got to spend time with the wonderful DC SportsChick of On Frozen Blog fame. I decided to forego the chance to practice my shot so no one can say "Mom, do you have any idea how hard it is to do a wrist shot"? But most of the ladies lined up for the chance to test their shooting prowess with Capitals great Peter Bondra and current Capitals Mathieu Perreault, Tyler Sloan, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle. Assistant coaches Bob Woods and Dean Evason demonstrated the finer points of perfecting a wicked slap shot or wrist shot.

The ladies turned the Caps equipment bin into a makeshift purse holder.

The event was comprised of several different sessions, including the on-ice skills portion. The women got to hear Chalk Talk with Comcast SportsNet's Lisa Hillary and former player Alan May, where the gals got to ask questions about the game and the team.

Lisa, who hails from Canada and knows her hockey, made a terrific moderator for her second year of hosting Chalk Talk and really engaged all the participants! In another session, Brett "Stretch" Leonhardt, demonstrated each piece of a player's equipment and its purpose, drawing lots of laughs from some of the very funny comments. HM didn't sit in that session too long as unfortunately I drive around with a car full of smelly hockey equipment every day and could probably do my own roadside demonstration.

Lots of new women's Capitals merchandise for sale.

The line for Gabby's book was long as women waited patiently to have their personal copy of Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer signed by our own jovial bench boss. One of the most popular sessions of the night was Coach Boudreau's film session as he took us through a typical pre-game routine of scouting the opposition (in this case we studied tomorrow's opponent, the Montreal Canadiens). Gabby was quite the jokester and the ladies in the audience had lots of interesting questions for him, including the NHL's popular slogan: "Is this the year", to which he replied "for what?"

Coach Boudreau hams it up with a new Gabby book owner.

The team also had all of their new merchandise for the female fan on display and if you have any Caps fans on your holiday list, then the Kettler Pro Shop is your one-stop shopping destination. There are some really fabulous new shirts, scarves, hats and lots of other fun fangear that I haven't seen anywhere else! At the end of the night, all the guests received an adorable Scarlet logo tote (will be perfect for schlepping my mags and books to and from the rink) and a mini-guide to everything hockey, just the right size for a purse or pocket.

So a big Hockey Mom high five to the Caps for another great event designed just for us ladies! Looking forward to next year's already...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caps Recall John Carlson from Hershey

D-men Shaone Morrison and Milan Jurcina are still nursing injuries and listed as day-to-day, so the Capitals have called up youngster John Carlson in case his services are needed tomorrow night against the struggling Montreal Canadiens.

From the team's press release:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have recalled defenseman John Carlson from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL), vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today.

Carlson, 19, is a first-year pro who stands 6’3”, 208 pounds. The Natick, Mass., native has played 17 games for Hershey and has one goal, nine assists and zero penalty minutes. His 10 points lead all Hershey blueliners and rank third among AHL rookie defensemen and his +14 rating is tied for the team lead with Karl Alzner.

Carlson joined Hershey last year after the completion of the OHL’s London Knights season where he had 16 goals and 60 assists in 59 junior games. He played in 16 Calder Cup playoff games for Hershey and had two goals and one assist as the Bears won the Calder Cup.

Meanwhile Hockey Mom will join hundreds of fabulous female Caps fans this evening for a night of cameraderie, fun and plenty of hockey talk and on-ice demos from the pros as the Capitals host their annual Hockey N'Heels event at Kettler Capital Iceplex. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great8 Returns: Caps 4 - Rangers 2

The bad blood between these two teams from last season's playoffs has certainly not been laid to rest as the Caps ventured into a hostile MSG to meet the rival Rangers. The Blueshirts got on the board first courtesy of sniper Marian Gaborik at 1:16 in the first period, as the boys seemed to be unable to get the puck out of their own zone. But we had Alex Ovechkin back on the ice and he quickly answered the Rangers tally with a slap shot from the blueline. Though there was no more scoring in the first period, it was all Capitals as the visitors held the Rangers to 5 shots to their 15. The first period also saw an ugly fight between Aaron Voros and Matt Bradley -Brads left the ice looking a bit like he had a run in with a meat grinder. Ovie had this to say about HM's favorite player dropping them for team:"He had big fight. And after his fight our team wake up and play our game."

The Capitals got on the board again in the second period with a Brooks Laich goal from right in front of King Henrik's crease. The chippiness continued as Ovie and Marc Staal were in an all-out battle for greatest number of hits (on each other). Marian Gaborik lit the lamp for the Blueshirts again in the final period, shortly after our much beloved grinder Quintin Laing sacrificed himself yet again to block a Rangers shot. This time Laing took a puck to the face and suffered a broken jaw (he'll be out for several weeks). That guy has had a tough go of it: a torn spleen, swine flu and now the jaw! There cannot be enough said about his dedication and work ethic as a team player....

Of course no Rangers contest would be complete without several doses of obnoxious doled out by none other than Sean Avery. Avery was up to his typical antics from the start of the game and made such dramatic dives trying to draw penalties that HM is going to vote him co-captain of the diving team behind our pal Sidney Crosby! He got away with yet another punch to the face of Semyon Varlamov (yeah #16, we saw you do it in the playoffs too) in direct view of the refs and John Erskine got the penalty when he came to Varly's defense.

But Matt Bradley was the night's big star, smoking both Wade Redden and then Henrik Lundqvist with a beautiful goal driven by sheer strength and will to give the Caps the lead late in the final period. Brian Pothier put a fork in it with his empty net goal as the Caps took down the Rags with a final score of

A huge Hockey Mom high five to all the guys for an exciting win and especially to Coach Bruce Boudreau for becoming the fourth fastest coach in the NHL to reach the 100 win mark!

Next up for the Caps, the Montreal Canadiens visit Verizon on Friday after a shoot out win against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes. Let's hope for the sake of our eyesight that the Habs aren't sporting these lovely sweaters:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Caps/Rangers Preview

Tonight the Capitals take on the blue-shirted foes from last season's playoff run at Madison Square Garden and will most likely see the return of star Alex Ovechkin to the action. Meanwhile the team has called up some of Mathieu Perreault's buddies from the Hershey Bears with the summoning of center Jay Beagle and goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Sources say that Beagle will most likely only play if David Steckel can't and that goaltender Jose Theodore has returned to D.C. for "personal reasons." As of yesterday, Boyd Gordon and Milan Jurcina are still listed as day-to-day with injuries.

The 11-8-1 Rangers sit at fifth place in the East but are waging their own battle against the injury bug. Captain Chris Drury is still sidelined with concussion symptoms after receiving a brutal high hit from the Calgary Flames' Curtis Glencross (which drew Glencross a three-game suspension). And young Brandon Dubinsky is out with a broken hand. That said, these guys are still an offensive threat as the Caps saw up close the last time they visited the Phone Booth. Marian Gaborik is second in the league in scoring boasting 25 points and his pal, Vinny Prospal, is no slouch himself with 21 points to his credit.

And of course there's always drama when Sean Avery is in the lineup. The uber-pest of the League has two goals and four assists - plus his own new line of clothing. And I hate to give the guy any kind of credit, but he does have a pretty cool Web site. In any case, it's always refreshing to see someone put this guy in his place - who's going to do it tonight for the visitors?

Get ready for a feisty contest as the puck drops at 7 p.m. (VERSUS)...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Battle of the Best in the East: Caps/Devils

After a win over the Minnesota Wild last night, the Caps headed to the Rock in New Jersey to take on the Devils, who sit one spot below Washington in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps are 4-2-4 against the Devils under Bruce Boudreau and all but three of the games (all Washington wins) have been decided by one goal. The Devils have won all four games (one in overtime and three in a shootout) that have exceeded regulation.

Minus Ovechkin (who is on the mend and hopes to see action against the Rangers next week) and Mike Knuble (who will be out 3-4 weeks with broken finger, Hockey Mom sighs with sadness as he'll be sorely missed), the boys got off to a nice start against Martin Brodeur and friends. Flash got the boys on board early on in the first with a power play goal at the 4:15 marker while Mathieu Perreault continued his hot streak as well with his own goal at 5:02. For a great read about Perreault, check out today's post from my pals at On Frozen Blog. Mike Green had assists on both Caps' tallies. Colin White netted the only goal for the Devils and the Caps ended the first period with a 2-1 lead.

The Devils tied it up early in the second as Mike Green went to the sin bin for a tripping call and Jamie Langenbrunner whizzed a rocket of a slap shot right over Theodore's shoulder. Midway through the second, the Caps got called for a too many men penalty and the offensively dangerous Devils were once again with the man advantage. Jose Theodore made several nice saves and the boys had a successful penalty kill. But just when you thought we were in the clear, a bad turnover by Alex Semin resulted in a breakaway goal from sniper Zach Parise (don't let his boyish good looks fool you, this guy has consistently been one of the sharpshooters in the league and has 21 points to date). Then in yet another defensive breakdown, the Caps got caught in a 3 on 2 and Matt Halischuk scored his first career goal to give the Devs a 4-2 lead going into the dressing room at the end of the second.

Things continued downhill for the Capitals in the opening minutes of the third period as Corey Murphy scored right off the face off padding the Devils lead by 3. The Caps completely fell off the tracks from the momentum they had going on in the first period and the Devils extended their win streak with a a final score of 5-2. Maybe fatigue could be to blame with the back-to-back weekend, but whatever the case, the boys will have to get it together and regroup to face a tough Rangers team on Tuesday. Let's hope that the Great8 will return and re-energize these guys - we sure didn't see much energy tonight with the exception of the first 20 minutes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Varly Saves the Day in a Battle of Goaltenders

The Caps got off to a hot start last night, as they hosted the Islanders for the third meeting between the two teams. On a rainy Veteran's Day, a packed Verizon Center went wild as Alex Semin (who's been the focus of much criticism for his inconsistent play lately) netted a zinger a mere eight seconds into the game! I had to drive the hockey carpool and was listening to the action on my trusty XM radio when things began to unravel for the Caps. Moulson, Bergenheim and Mark Streit scored quickly for the Isles for a 3-1 lead, stunning the home crowd and sending Jose Theodore to the bench for the evening. Flash continued his hot streak by pounding one in assisted by our solid playmaker, Nick Backstrom and one Mike Knuble, to cut the Islander's lead to within one.

Now if there's one thing we've learned in our past meetings with these boys from Long Island, it's that they've got one heck of a work ethic. These guys battle for every puck and every hit and they ensured that the Caps had their work cut out for them again last night!

Alex Semin tied the game 3-3 in the second, showing signs of the hot stick that's been missing in action the past few outings without his pal Alex Ovechkin. The Caps added another point on the board in the middle stanza, as Eric Fehr's backhand inked it's way past veteran Dwayne Roloson's grasp. So going into the final period, the boys held a 4-3 lead.

The Islanders (again, these guys never quit) tied it up at 17:52 in the third period as Trent Hunter's wicked slap shot buzzed right over Varlamov's shoulder. As has become the norm for these two teams, we were headed into OT. The Caps tried their darnedest to close this one out in OT and put the pressure on Roloson. But no score in the additional minutes, and this one was headed to a shoot out.

What a shoot out it was - going 11 rounds, as Commish Gary Bettman watched on from Ted Leonsis' box. Alex Semin scored the first shoot out goal for the Caps and captain Chris Clark netted the game-winner in an absolute nail-biter of an ending. Semyon Varlamov was spectacular with eight saves, giving him a 2-0 record in shoot outs. The 5-4 win propelled the Caps to the first place spot in the Eastern Conference - nice work boys!

In other news, no new word on any potential movement of Michael Nylander and Ovechkin has been practicing so let's keep our fingers crossed that we see him back in action very soon.

And for a gal's perspective on what it's like to report on the Washington Capitals, check out HM's interview with some of the savviest female hockey writers in the press box over at!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Capitals Salute Our Veterans and Active Troops

Washington Capitals players pose with Microsoft and USO representatives in front of the Courage Caps at the Microsoft Corp.’s annual A Salute to Our Troops program. (left to right – Brian Pothier, Elaine Rogers, President of the USO of Metropolitan Washington, Teresa Carlson, Mike Knuble, Vice President, Microsoft US Federal, David Steckel and Chris Clark. Photo by Getty Image/Jemal Countess.

The Washington Capitals continued their commitment to honoring the country's brave men and women who serve in our military by participating with WTOP 103.5 FM, Federal News Radio 1500 AM and the USO of Metropolitan Washington in Microsoft Corp.’s annual A Salute to Our Troops program with Operation USO Care Package Day. Chris Clark, Mike Knuble, Brian Pothier and David Steckel joined forces with Ted Leonsis and more than a hundred volunteers to assemble 5,000 care packages that will be sent to our troops serving overseas.

The Capitals players recorded video messages for the troops, sending best wishes to them during the holiday season on the Pentagon Channel. “It’s always special when you can help out the people who keep us safe,” said captain Chris Clark.

“We all did video messages for the men and women serving oversees that hopefully can let them know how much we appreciate all that they do for us,” said Pothier.

As part of the program, the USO-Metro hospital services team brought the wounded warriors “Sled Dogs” team from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center to Kettler Iceplex where they scrimmaged on the ice after the Capitals’ practice. The Caps players met and took pictures with the wounded warriors before heading up to pack the care packages.

This event launched Courage Caps, presented by Microsoft, which is in its third season and has raised nearly $70,000 in the first two years. Courage Caps are team-issued and branded hats that will be sold through December at Capitals home games, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and online at with 100% of the proceeds benefiting USO-Metro. Caps fans can purchase their Courage Caps at Verizon Center tomorrow when the boys take on the New York Islanders.

Tomorrow night the Capitals will mark Veteran's Day by hosting more than 50 Wounded Warriors and their families for tomorrow's game at Verizon Center, in conjunction with Microsoft and the USO of Metropolitan Washington. The Wounded Warriors will also be treated to a pre-game reception, where they will be honored and recognized for their service and courage.

Hockey Mom joins Caps fans united in thanking our troops for their service - keep them in your prayers as they stand in harm's way to preserve our freedom.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Caps/Panthers: Part Deux

After returning from last night's win over the Florida Panthers in the wee hours of the morning (2 a.m. to be precise), the Capitals suited up to face the Cats on their home turf at the Phone Booth. Last night's 4-1 victory came at a price, as Jeff Schultz and Mike Green (with lower and upper body injuries, respectively) joined the Great8 in the press box. Jose Theodore got the nod in net for the home team, while Scott Clemmensen held court in the Panthers' crease.

After his fabulous game last night (a goal, a +3 rating and three hits in 18:25 of ice time), young Tyler Sloan was being called "Deion Sanders" by his team mates. Brian Pothier (who had a heck of a game himself with a goal and two assists), referred to the youngster as "our swingman - our Deion Sanders." Way to go Sloaner!

Tonight's rematch got chippy early on as the aforementioned Sloan took a huge hit into the boards courtesy of Michal Repik. But as they've done in the last 13 of 16 games this year, the men in red got on the scoreboard first with a goal from Mike Knuble. Knuble got assistance on his tally from Brendan Morrison and Brooks Laich. Shortly after the goal, Chris Clark took a seat for holding and the boys went on the PK. On the kill, Caps fans saw the phenomenal Quintin Laing block yet another shot - is this guy amazing or what? Hey Quintin, can you rub off some of that "do whatever it takes to get it done for the team" mojo on Alex Semin? And speaking of Semin, he took the second Capitals penalty for - you guessed it - a trip. End of first period: Caps 1 - Panthers 0

Alex Semin's
penalty woes continued in the opening minutes of the middle period as he was called for a cross-check. Then Jose Theodore neglected to clamp down on a Panther rebound, resulting in a goal from Michael Frolik to get the cats on the board. The Panthers gave the Caps a power play opportunity at the 4:28 mark and Brooks Laich regained the home team's lead with a sharp-angled goal against Clemmensen. However, they didn't take the lead for long as 19-year old Dmitry Kulikov wound up and shot a rocket past Theo to earn his first NHL goal. Tyler Sloan appeared to be screening Theo on that one. The hard hits prevailed in the second period as Laing nailed Kulikov and John Erskine (back after a nine game absence) absolutely flattened a Panthers player.

The Cats lit the lamp for the third time courtesy of Michal Repik. End of the second period: Panthers 3 - Caps 2

The boys tied it up early in the third as Mathieu Perreault scored his first NHL goal - a huge Hockey Mom high five to him! They regained the lead at 3:01 into the final period from the hard-working line of Laing-Steckel-Bradley with Quintin getting credit for the goal. In what had become an action-packed, tit for tat contest, the Panthers' Corey Stillman blew one past Theo (a soft one I'm sure he'd so love to have back). But about two and a half minutes later, Flash was on the move and scored from a wrap around attempt from Backstrom. Then the Capitals lit the lamp again as Mike Knuble deflected the puck into the goal by doing what he does best, parking his large frame in front of the opposition's net. Knuble's goal made it a 6-4 contest. The boys netted yet another goal from Tomas Fleischmann at 13:38 in the third as the Panthers d-men stood around and watched like a bunch of Squirt house players!

Flash (two goals) and Knuble (two goals and two assists) both had an outstanding game (as did my favorite grinder Laing) to give the Caps a commanding win despite playing without Ovie and Green! Final score: Caps 7 - Panthers 4

Nice job all around - and be sure to join Mike Green for the second edition of Caps on the Fly this coming Monday. Green will chat with Mike Vogel in a live broadcast from the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown D.C. starting at 6 p.m. Fans can can watch the show live at the Hilton Garden Inn located at 815 14th Street in downtown Washington, D.C., or online at

Next up for the Caps (hopefully we'll have all the guys back on the bench) is another meeting with the New York Islanders on Wednesday. And stay tuned for news of any possible movement of Michael Nylander as he is set to clear waivers on Monday and could be on his way to a new home somewhere.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hedman Gets Rocked; Caps/Panthers Preview

The highly-touted rookie defenseman, Victor Hedman, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, received a less than friendly welcome to the league via a brutal hit, courtesy of  Ottawa Senator's bad boy Chris Neil. Now Hedman is no lightweight mind you, standing at 6'6" and weighing in at a solid 230 lbs. But yet again, when someone is coming at you at the speed of light, keep your head up for pete's sake!

Now Chris Neil had to dance with Lightning brawler Steve Downie to answer for what was deemed a clean hit and he proceeded to wallop the feisty former Flyer.

Speaking of dancing, HM has a great gift idea for all you foodies out there in hockeyland. Fellow Capitals blogger Rob Yunich of Storming the Crease fame and his wife have recently penned a very cool new cookbook titled The Kitchen Dance. This great cookbook features detailed shopping lists, tips to help you stock the pantry and ideas about entertaining in tight quarters -- along with plenty of healthy, quick (kosher) recipes such as stir-fries, pasta entrees, vegetarian main dishes, original quick-cooking chicken recipes and delicious desserts. Now with my harried hockey schedule, HM is all about quick and easy recipes so I encourage you all to check it out!

Finally, the boys face the Florida Panthers tonight, their second game sans Alex Ovechkin. Ovie says his injury is "getting better" but he is not expected to see any action this weekend. I think we'd all agree that it's better for him to make sure he's 100 percent rather than come back early (especially with the rough and tumble way he plays)!

The Cats are coming off a 3-0 win against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes and are still without David Booth. As you'll recall, Booth is still suffering from a wicked concussion following a controversial hit from Flyers' captain Mike Richards a few weeks ago. In his absence, the Panthers have won three straight, led by Nathan Horton (goal and six assists in last four games), d-man Jordan Leopold (goal and three assists in last four games) and d-man Dennis Seidenberg (goal and three assists in last three games). Minding the net for Florida is Tomas Vokoun, who currently has a .919 save percentage. And it will be a big night for Panther's captain Brian McCabe, as the 34-year old will be playing in his 1,000th NHL game tonight when the puck drops at Bank Atlantic Center.

The Capitals' keys to victory: We need to ramp up the secondary scoring, eliminate the defensive gaffes in our own zone that have become par for the course and stop giving the opposition power play opportunities due to silly penalties (that last one's for you Alex Semin). Puck drops at 7:30 p.m..

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Backstrom on Grate Patrol

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom met with the homeless on one of the stops of The Salvation Army’s Grate Patrol program Monday evening.

As HM reported earlier, Capitals' center Nick Backstrom joined forces with Mix 107.3’s Chilli Amar,  Gary Dexter with Tires Plus and Comcast SportsNet’s Lisa Hillary in The Salvation Army’s Grate Patrol program on Monday in an effort to help D.C.'s growing homeless population. The group delivered chicken noodle soup, bread, hot chocolate and cookies to the homeless in eight locations in Washington, D.C. With the temperature changing the Grate Patrol van also had sweatshirts to give the homeless to help with the cooler weather.

The Grate Patrol van started at The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light facility at 6:30 p.m. and stopped at eight locations in the northwest part of Washington, D.C. Backstrom and his fellow volunteers delivered the food and sweatshirts and talked to the homeless about their everyday struggles of living on the streets.

“This was a different experience for me, but the people were happy we were there,” said Backstrom, who is the spokesman for the Capitals’ canned food drive at their Nov. 20 game. “We weren’t just there to pass out food, we were there to talk to them and try to help any way we could.”

The Grate Patrol program started in 1985 and operates 365 days a year with service to more than 1,000 individuals each month. Originally the program offered meals alone, but today an outreach coordinator helps homeless get back on their feet. The Grate Patrol got its name from the homeless sleeping on grates to stay warm.

This is such a tremendous cause and unfortunately the ranks of the homeless are most likely growing due to the economic recession. Caps fans are encouraged to volunteer with the Grate Patrol program by either preparing or delivering meals any day of the week. Go to, Facebook, or Twitter for more information.

Canuck Craziness and Other Mid-Week Musings

As you know, one of HM's other favorite teams (waaay behind my Washington Capitals of course) is the Vancouver Canucks (who just signed former Cap Matt Pettinger by the way). Well the boys found themselves in quite a bit of a melee last night when they faced off against the New York Rangers and uber-antagonist Sean Avery. I don't think I've seen an all-out scrum like this in quite awhile (yes, it's better than Sunday's bench brawl between the Blue Jackets and the Caps. Note to self: next time sometime challenges you Jason Chimera after you run the league's MVP, you may wanna man up and drop 'em). Check out the craziness that ensues between Sean Avery and Vancouver's Shane O'Brien on the bench, mere inches from TSN's Ray Ferraro's face. Wonder if Sean Avery was gabbing about O'Brien's weight or something, as he apparently did to Bruce Boudreau during last season's playoff series.

In other hockey happenings:

  • Vincent Lecavalier scored his second (yes, second) goal in the Lightning's win over the Leafs. What in the sam-harry-hell is going on there?
  • For anyone still wondering if D.C. qualifies as a true "hockey town", the D.C. City Council declared November 3 ‘Washington Capitals Day’ -so there!
  • The Caps face the New Jersey Devils at the Rock this evening minus Alex Ovechkin. Time for Alex Semin, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and the rest to get down and dirty and light up Marty's lamp. Hershey's Mathieu Perreault was called up yesterday so maybe he can get in on the action as well! HM has a previous engagement this evening so check out the fabulous writers in my blog roll tomorrow for complete coverage.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Capitals Raise Nearly $25,000 for Hockey Fights Cancer

Washington Capitals season-ticket holders were honored with right wing Matt Bradley (far right) and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (far left) at pregame ceremony during the Capitals Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Oct. 27.

A huge Hockey Mom high five to the Washington Capitals and especially their generous and fabulous fans for their efforts in raising nearly $25,000 for Hockey Fights Cancer! The organization raised the much-needed funds through their Hockey Fights Cancer Month initiatives in October to benefit ZERO – The Project to End Prostate Cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one of six men.

The Capitals hosted a practice jersey auction during the team’s Oct. 17 and 27 home games that raised $24,705 for ZERO. Nine jerseys went for $1,000 or more, with Brooks Laich’s jersey the top seller at $2,550. Other top bid recipients were jerseys worn and autographed by Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Bradley, Chris Clark, Mike Green, Milan Jurcina, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov.

Before the Oct. 27 game against Philadelphia the Capitals hosted ZERO’s mobile screening vehicle at Verizon Center and provided free prostate cancer screenings. During that same game the Capitals also honored 25 season-ticket holders who have beaten, are battling, have treated or in some way been affected by prostate cancer. Caps right wing Matt Bradley and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn (both who've personally lost loved ones to cancer) greeted each participant on the ice and posed for a group photo.

Monday, November 2, 2009

MVP Ovechkin's Status Week to Week

Caps fans got some good news and some bad news today, all revolving around their shining star and the NHL's reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin.

So the good news is that Ovie was named one of the NHL's Stars of the Month for October, along with Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov and Craig Anderson, who has done a heck of a job minding the crease for the resurgent Colorado Avalanche.

Alex Ovechkin earned second star honors as he led the NHL in goals (14), points (23), shots (85) and tied for second place in plus-minus (+10) as the Capitals went 8-2-3 and opened a seven-point lead in the Southeast Division. Ovechkin matched Mario Lemieux’s NHL record for October with six two-goal games and his 14 goals matched the most he has scored in a calendar month (March, 2008). The reigning NHL MVP became the third player in NHL history to tally at least three points in each of his first three games of a season, joining Guy Lafleur with Montreal in 1975-76 and Peter Stastny with Quebec in 1982-83. Ovie had five goals and four assists in that span.

Now for that bad news - it was initially announced that the Great8 was suffering an undisclosed upper body injury and was listed as day to day. The latest update from the team now has him listed as week to week, which means that the boys are gonna have to step it way up in his absence for sure.

From the Capitals PR department (a special stick tap to Nate Ewell and his terrific team for always keeping us in the loop):

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin suffered an upper-body strain in Sunday evening’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and his status is week-to-week, the team determined Monday.

Ovechkin, the NHL leader in points (23) and goals (14) and the league’s Second Star of the Month for October, is expected to miss the fifth game of his five-year career on Wednesday at New Jersey. He has only missed two games due to injury in his first four seasons.

“We have to buckle down,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said earlier Monday. “A goal a game he scores, so we got to play better defense and cannot allow four or five goals a game. You have to win 3-1 and 2-1 and if you get lucky sometimes make it a 4-2 game. I think we have enough character players who understand what we will have to do without Alex.”

Ovechkin played just 7:43 of Sunday’s overtime loss to Columbus and was held without a point for just the third time this year. He was examined and treated by the team’s medical staff and underwent an MRI exam on Monday.

The two-time reigning most valuable player will travel with the Capitals this week to continue to receive medical treatment.

More from Boudreau today:

Needless to say, it's time for some secondary scoring boys - starting against Martin Brodeur on Wednesday. Get well soon Russian Machine!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ovechkin Injury Update

No specfic details but the Capitals PR staff have released a statement on Ovechkin's injury during tonight's game against Columbus:

Alex Ovechkin suffered an upper-body injury in the 2nd period and is day-to-day. The Capitals have a day off tomorrow so the soonest we will have an update on his status is Tuesday.

Caps Fall to Columbus Blue Jackets in OT

After two kids' games and a practice yesterday and two kids' games today, Hockey Mom finally settled down to watch the big boys welcome the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Phone Booth. The Caps started this game off on the right foot, with a very sweet goal from Nicklas Backstrom, assisted by Tomas Fleischmann and Alex Semin. The Caps led the Jackets 1-0 at the end of the opening period.

The second period started out with some fireworks as Ovechkin skated by the Blue Jackets' bench and got a few not so friendly jabs from Jared Boll and Jason Chimera. This altercation escalated into to an all-out scrum between both teams with the Great8 smack dab in the middle. HM was surprised to see such thuggery coming from a team not wearing orange and black.

At the 14-minute mark Columbus captain Rick Nash made some spectacular moves, drawing Theo out of the net and pretty much stopping Mike Green in his tracks as he put the Blue Jackets on the board to tie the game.

Midway through the second, Ovechkin took a tumble after hitting Raffe Torres and left the ice in obvious pain and favoring his left arm/shoulder, a huge cause for concern for the Caps faithful. Brooks Laich had a fabulous scoring chance on Steve Mason late in the period, but Mason stifled him in a fine imitation of a wall.

The Blue Jackets got on the board for their second tally in an odd chain of events as Jose Theodore was trying to play the puck which in turn took a random bounce and RJ Umberger took full advantage of the opportunity.

The third period started with no Ovie and Brooks Laich mentioned that in Ovechkin’s absence, the team had to step it up. And step it up they did. Now HM had a full weekend of referees who apparently slept through the Hockey Rules 101 section during a few of the twin’s games this weekend. Well, the stripes missed a call for the men in red as well as David Steckel got called for goalie interference while it should have been a hooking call on the Blue Jackets. That was after the first period missed call on a Kristian Huselius hook on Juice that left both the big men sprawled in pain against the boards.

But Laich made true on his word as he scored two goals in a span of about two minutes. The first was assisted by Tom Poti and Alex Semin, and the second was courtesy of Mike Green and Brendan Morrison. Green’s assist gives him points in 9 straight games. At the 13:36 marker, Raffe Torres tied it up again with a bad wrap around on Theo, who was minus his stick at that inopportune moment.

The grinder we all know and love, Quintin Laing, obviously has shaken off all symptoms of the swine flu and proceeded to give the Caps a late third period lead! But in what has become an unsettling trend, the Caps lost the lead in the final seconds as Raffe Torres scored to tie it and take it into OT (another edge of the seat, adult beverage mandatory-ending).

The bad blood continued to boil at the end of this one, with another scrum involving words exchanged between Jason Chimura and Shaone Morrison, among others. The Caps took a penalty call for interference by Brian Pothier during OT, giving the Blue Jackets a power play opportunity. And wouldn’t ya know, that pesky RJ Umberger took full advantage and blew one past Jose Theodore for the win.

Final Score: Columbus 5 – Capitals 4

So another frustrating loss and now we'll wait for news on the health of Alex Ovechkin. For now, Gabby is saying that AO is day-to-day with an upper body injury. The boys aren’t back in action until Wednesday, so let’s keep our collective fingers crossed that Ovie is back on the bench to face the New Jersey Devils. Stay tuned…