Thursday, January 27, 2011

Caps Extend Alex Semin for One Year; Send Three Down to Farm

The Washington Capitals have signed right wing Alexander Semin to a one-year contract extension, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Semin, 26, is in his sixth season in the NHL, all with the Capitals. He has 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 39 games this season, second on the team in goals and third in points. In 366 career games the 6’2”, 209-pound native of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, has recorded 335 points (166 goals, 169 assists) and already ranks 11th in Capitals history in goals and 19th in points.

This season Semin is tied for the league lead with three hat tricks, which came in a 35-day span from Oct. 23 to Nov. 26. His 16 goals at home rank third in the league. While he has been hampered by injury lately, he ranked second in the league in goals (18) and fifth in points (30) in the first two months of the season. His three hat tricks in 35 days were the fastest by an NHL player since 2002 (Marian Gaborik) and his natural hat trick in 4:29 on Nov. 26 was the NHL’s fastest since Jan. 8, 2009 (Bobby Ryan, 2:21).

Semin, who is coming off his first 40-goal season and a career-high 84 points, ranked seventh in the NHL in goals and 13th in points in 2010-11. His 30 even-strength goals ranked third in the league and he was tied for fifth with a +36 rating.

A first-round choice of the Capitals in the 2002 NHL Draft, 13th overall, Semin has 313 points in 314 games during the last five seasons, ranking 17th in points per game in the NHL in that time (0.997). He ranks 10th in goals in that time (156) and is one of only 12 players league-wide to score more than 25 goals in each of the last four seasons. He is on pace to hit that mark again this year. He is a combined +69 in the last three seasons, best of any Capitals forward and fifth-best in the NHL.

Now if  he can just get healthy, get back to some consistent scoring and stay out of the penalty box (so maybe he can drop the nickname assigned to him by many Caps fans - "Sasha Minor").

Meanwhile, three of the youngsters are headed back down to Hershey. Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault and goaltender Braden Holtby will be making the slushy drive back to Chocolate Town to rejoin the Hershey Bears, the team just announced.

The move, coinciding with the NHL All-Star Weekend, will allow Holtby to participate in the AHL All-Star festivities set for Sunday and Monday in Hershey (and televised live on Comcast SportsNet).

As you know, all three players have spent time in both Hershey and Washington this season. Perreault has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 24 games with the Capitals, while Beagle has scored twice in 19 games. Holtby is 4-2-2 in eight appearances, with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two of Capitals Brightest En Route to 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend

After a lacklustre and disappointing shut out at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers and Ondrej Pavelec, two of the Washington Capitals are on their way to Raleigh to join the NHL’s elite for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover. Alex Ovechkin will be playing in his fourth All-Star Game, having recorded a total of 6 points in his ASG appearances to date, while Mike Green will be hitting the ice in his first ASG experience (as an alternate captain). Just for giggles, the two may very well end up on opposing teams.

Green, a two-time member of the NHL’s end-of-season NHL First All-Star Team and a two-time Norris Trophy runner-up, has led NHL defense men in goals for three years in a row. He has also been tops among NHL defense men in points for the past two seasons and is one of only two active defense men with a 70-point season in his career – the other being Lidstrom, the opposing Captain. This season he ranks fourth in ice time per game among NHL defense men.

To add a little more excitement to this year’s game, the league has implemented a bit of a different format. Players will still get to show off their niftiest dekes and shooting tricks along with their blazing speed during the always-entertaining Honda All-Star Superskills Competition on Saturday, January 28 (who can forget Ovi’s props and goofy getup during the 2008-2009 exhibition – always the personality)!

But the new addition of the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft may bring back memories of being selected by their childhood pals in preparation for shinny on the backyard frozen pond for many. The two team captains, Raleigh fan fave Eric Staal and future Hall of Fame Detroit defense man Nick Lidstrom, will be picking their teams by selecting among the uber-talented roster of players voted in by the fans. The captains will be assisted in the selection or “draft” by their alternate captains: our own Mike Green and Vancouver’s Ryan Kessler will be help select “Team Staal” while Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Chicago’s Patrick Kane will serve as judge and jury in drafting “Team Lidstrom.” One of the exciting aspects of this new system will be watching to see if any of the team leaders leave their real-life team mates off of their bench and the big question, will the Sedin twins finally be separated? The All-Star Fantasy Draft will take place on Friday, January 28 at 8 p.m. and will be televised on VERSUS.

All of these events lead up to big game pitting the best of the best against each other. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game will be broadcast on VERSUS on Sunday, January 30 at 4 p.m. and we hope our boys will represent us well!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Capitals News to Note

If you're like me - missing my weekly episode of HBO's 24/7, Capitals Red Line returns to Comcast SportsNet on Saturday, February 5 at 9 a.m. for your Caps behind-the-scenes viewing pleasure (minus the locker room expletives - this show's family-friendly). New episodes will air on Comcast SportsNet every Saturday at 9 a.m. through March 26.  

In addition to the new, consistent time each week, CRL features three new segments this season; a special segment following Caps defenseman John Carlson’s rookie season, One on One with Mike Vogel and Cap to Cap. Host Guerin Austin returns for another season as well as Elliot Segal from Elliot in the Morning and the long-awaited return of “Professor” Bradley (can I get a "beat dat beat up fist pump for the return of Professor Bradley). Now if we can just get Matt Bradley healthy and back on the ice!

In other news, the Capitals will honor 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Dino Ciccarelli at Turn Back the Clock Night when the Caps host the Canadiens at the Phone Booth on Tuesday,
Feb. 1. The Caps will wear their NHL Winter Classic-style throwback jerseys – which will be available in a silent auction during the game – and all fans in attendance will receive a limited edition Ciccarelli Upper Deck trading card, courtesy of Comcast SportsNet.

Fans are encouraged to be in their seats early for the 7:30 p.m. game, as Ciccarelli will be honored and will participate in a ceremonial puck drop. Select Capitals alumni will be signing autographs for fans on the concourse. Entertainment throughout the evening will focus on Ciccarelli’s era with the Capitals (1989-92) and will include tribute videos and an appearance by the Capitals’ former mascot, Winger.

Ciccarelli spent 19 seasons in the NHL, four of them in Washington. He recorded 112 goals and 97 assists (209 points) in 223 career games with the Capitals. He joined the team via trade March 7, 1989, and scored 12 goals in 11 games to close out that season. He led the team with 41 goals and 79 points in 1989-90 and had a team-high 38 goals in 1991-92, his final season with the Caps.

All four of Ciccarelli’s Capitals teams made the playoffs and he was among the top two playoff goal or point scorers on the team each year. Only Alex Ovechkin (1.29) has a better career playoff points per game for the Capitals than Ciccarelli (35 points in 32 games, 1.09).

Ciccarelli joined Mike Gartner (2001), Rod Langway (2002), Larry Murphy (2004) and Scott Stevens (2007) as Capitals in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

And in other news and notes, here are some other happenings around the rinks:
  • Homer McFanboy expounds on the scoring slumps of Brooks Laich and Mike Knuble.
  • Ravings of a Rink Rebel previews some of the best in women's hockey happening here this weekend during the Women's Junior Hockey League Challenge Cup.
  • A funny take on the scoresheet from last night's loss at the hands of the Blueshirts from Capitals Outsider.
  • On a sad note, the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard may have some tough decisions to make in terms of his future as he suffered yet another concussion this weekend.
  • Speaking of concussions, Sidney Crosby has bowed out of this weekend's NHL All-Star Game, as has his team mate Geno Malkin.
  • Injury will also keep Atlanta Thrashers d-man Tobias Enstrom off the ice against the Caps tomorrow in addition to missing the All-Star festivities.
  • Talk about a goalie controversy - the New York Islanders have suspended former Sharks and KHL net minder Evgeni Nabokov after he said "nyet" to reporting to the Isles after they claimed him off waivers.

Capitals Raise More than $45,000 for Our Military Kids

Washington Capitals forwards Matt Hendricks, Mike Knuble and David Steckel presented Our Military Kids with a check in the amount of $45,836.99 – a new record – from the money the team raised through Courage Caps today at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Matt Hendricks has quickly become a Caps fan hero, especially with his super-sick goals against Toronto and the Rangers this week, but today he helped the team give back to the families of our true heroes - the men and women serving our country in uniform.

Today Hendricks joined team mates Mike Knuble and David Steckel to present Our Military Kids with a check in the amount of $45,836.99 – a new record - from the money the team raised through Courage Caps at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. The Capitals sold 1,850 Courage Caps and 871 Courage T-shirts during the team’s 2010 campaign.

Courage Caps is in its fourth season and has raised more than $135,000 in its first four years. The Washington Capitals have sold more than 6,500 Courage Caps in four years and more than 1,200 Courage T-shirts in just two years.

Our Military Kids provides grants to the children of deployed National Guard and Military Reserve personnel, as well as children of all Wounded Warriors. The grants pay for participation in activities such as sports, fine arts and tutoring, which nurture and sustain the children while a parent is overseas serving our country. Our Military Kids grants are made to honor the sacrifices military families make and to ensure the children have access to activities and support that help them better cope with challenges arising during a parent's deployment or recovery.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mike Green Named as Alternate Captain for NHL All-Star Game

Congratulations to Capitals defenseman Mike Green, who was selected as an alternative captain for next week's NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh. Green and fellow alternate captain, Ryan Kessler of the Vancouver Canucksjoin the team of Captain Eric Staal from the host Carolina Hurricanes. Chicago's Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis (Caps fans are all too familiar with this guy) were also tapped as alternates and will join future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom's team. 

The four Alternate Captains were selected by the NHL and the NHLPA, considering input provided by the NHL All-Stars. The Alternate Captains will help with the team selection process during the new NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft powered by Cisco on Jan. 28. These four All-Stars will help their Captains set their team rosters and lineups for the Honda NHL SuperSkills® on Jan. 29 and the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Jan. 30.

Green, a two-time member of the NHL’s end-of-season NHL First All-Star Team and a two-time Norris Trophy runner-up, has led NHL defensemen in goals for three years in a row. He has also been tops among NHL defensemen in points for the past two seasons and is one of only two active defensemen with a 70-point season in his career – the other being Lidstrom, the opposing Captain. Green this season ranks fourth in ice time per game among NHL defensemen.

Meanwhile, Green and his team mates are in the legendary hockey town (and Gabby's home town) of Toronto for tonight's bout with the Maple Leafs. The hockey-mad Toronto media have already descended upon the Cap's bench boss and apparently the Crosby concussion-gate topic just won't die.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Caps Strike First in Win against Islanders

Prior to tonight, the Caps had won four in a row at Nassau Coliseum and were 5-0-1 here since the start of the 2007-08 season. Four of those six games were decided in overtime, two of them on overtime goals by Alex Ovechkin. Well wouldn’t you know that the Great8 had a hand in getting his team on the board first, feeding the puck to an awaiting Jason Chimera in front of the crease at 3:41 in the opening period. The super speedy Chimera was moved up to play between Ovi and his pal Nick Backstrom and HM is hoping that is a permanent assignment.

End of First Period: Caps 1 – Islanders 0

Meanwhile, Nicklas Backstrom had assists in eight of the last 11 games prior to tonight, reaching the 300-point plateau. Only two Capitals all-time have reached 300 points faster than Backstrom (293 GP): Alex Ovechkin and Mike Gartner. The polite Swedish center had been in a goal-slump of late, which he burst out of by slapping in the rebound off of an Ovechkin shot on the other side of a sprawling Rick DiPietro. The Caps’ celebration didn’t last for long as Michael Grabner flew up the left side and beat Braden Holtby, who was minding the net for the ailing Varlamov and Neuvirth dynamic duo. Speaking of goaltenders, the oft-injured Rick DiPietro was healthy but channeling his best Patrick Roy imitation for much of the middle stanza. Unfortunately, the Caps did not take advantage of the many leisurely jaunts Ricky took out of the crease, leaving the Isles’ wide open. Despite the long-awaited return on talented youngster Kyle Okposo, the Isles did not add another tally in the second.

End of Second Period: Caps 2 – Islanders 1

The always scrappy Islanders picked up the tempo in the third period, ramping up the physical play. Midway through the period, Jack Hillen took exception to a clean (but wrecking) check from the gregarious Matt Hendricks and tempers flared and expletives flew. The Capitals kept up their tight forechecking pressure and the penalty kill unit squashed two more Isles’ power play attempts (the boys killed all six of New York’s power plays on the evening). Braden Holtby played a big role in defending the Islanders on the man advantage and kept Okposo, Tavares and crew off the scoreboard for the remainder of the period.

Final: Capitals 2- Islanders 1

The boys head across the border for a bout with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Leafs were literally blown away last night by the New York Rangers, who saw a four-goal night from sniper Marian Gaborik in the 7-0 rout. Surely the Capitals will be thinking about former team mate Tomas Fleischmann, who will miss the remainder of the season with a scary pulmonary embolism illness (via Adrian Dater of the Denver Post). I know Caps and Avs fans join me in sending Flash and his family prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings: Hockey & Heels Tickets On Sale Tomorrow

After another disappointing loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on Friday (and yes, the Sedin twins were mesmerizing on the ice - my twins kept commenting how "sick" their passing was), the Capitals looked a bit lethargic in the opening period of yesterday's game against a struggling Senators club. On a day when many were focused on the NFL's big stars (Mark Sanchez and Tom Brady showdown), the Capitals' brightest star, Alex Ovechkin, was again held scoreless. But the boys got  a bit more zip in their step in the final period, when Brooks Laich lit the lamp against the Sens' Brian Elliott. Laich's tally marked a team-leading fifth time that he scored the Caps’ first goal of the game. And mere seconds later, Milan Michalek cross-checked Karl Alzner dangerously into the boards. As Alzner left to get checked out, his defensive partner John Carlson gained revenge on a power play blast from the blueline. Thankfully, Alzner returned and had an assist on Jason Chimera's marker, giving the Caps a 3-1 victory (and certainly adding more fuel to the hot seat that's sizzling under Sens coach Cory Clouston). It certainly wasn't the prettiest victory, but nice to be back in the win column for sure.

On another note, Hockey & Heels is back on February 9 and tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m. Tickets fly out the door faster than shoes at the Nordstrom Once Yearly Sale so ladies, sign up for Club Scarlet and get them early!

The event will take place on Wednesday, February 9, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington and  is exclusively for Scarlet members. Tickets to Hockey ‘N Heels cost $100 and will include a ticket to the event on February 9 and a ticket to the March 1 game against the New York Islanders with a special pregame happy hour in the Dewar’s 12 Clubhouse at Verizon Center.  Ladies, you can sign up for Club Scarlet at The Scarlet Web site has been totally redesigned - check it out for the latest news, social media, blogs and events!

The first two sessions are on-ice demonstrations which will include current and former Capitals. The ladies will have an opportunity to use both sheets of ice and learn how to shoot, pass and catch pucks during the course of the evening. While the ladies wait in line for the on-ice demonstration, they will be able to see and try on different hockey equipment.

The third session will be with Caps’ strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish explaining to the ladies what fitness routines the players go through. The fourth session is the famous film talk with coach Bruce Boudreau (always complete with his signature dash of salty humor).  Gabby will help the women understand how to dissect and analyze different aspects of the game. The fifth and final session will be a chalk talk with Capital alum Alan May.

Meanwhile, the boys travel to Philly for a Tuesday meeting with the Eastern Conference leading Flyers - always a spirited affair with that bunch. Check out the shenanigans that went down during yesterday's Flyers/Rangers match up as thugnasty Scott Hartnell and that sneaky little Danny Briere punched Brandon Prust from the bench:

Good times....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Look at the Red-Hot Vancouver Canucks: In the Now by Lisa Ovens

First, I would be irresponsible to look towards tomorrow's game against the sizzling Sedin snipers and their merry band of brothers without acknowledging last night's lacklustre loss against the Bolts. I must be honest, for the first time in forever, I flipped off the game (almost literally) and buried my head in a book. Now I am well aware that there is plenty of time left and we are nowhere near being out of playoff contention, but for realz boys? Where is our offense? How many lovely rebounds were left in front of tribal elder Dwayne Roloson's net last night with nary a Cap in sight? RMNB pretty much sums that game up to a tee here. If the Caps want to get past league-leading Vancouver and Roberto Luongo tomorrow night, they are going to have to grasp the concept of crashing the net and clearing the puck out of their zone for cripe's sake! HM will be there with my Bantam twins taking notes on those other twins for sure.

Anyone who's been reading along for awhile knows that Vancouver is my second favorite NHL team. In preparation for the big game, I wanted to provide some insight on the Canucks from someone who knows them best - author of Hockey & High Heels and For the Love of Empty Net Goals and life-long Vancouver fan Lisa Ovens. Here's her breakdown of her beloved Nucks:

“The past you cannot change, the future will never come so live in successive moments of now” (guru, Kirpal Singh Maharaj). That’s a mantra I discovered ten years ago and have applied it to my life ever since. Though sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do.

So if there is one mantra I could apply to the Vancouver Canucks right now that would be it. They aren’t getting ahead of themselves and they are leaving the past where it belongs. They are focused, so focused I don’t think they realize they are currently 14-0-3.Much has been said about the winning, their place at the top of the standings, but by everyone else; the Canucks themselves, not so much. Tonight they play the Rangers, and most likely aren’t even thinking about the Capitals game on Friday night. A game I am really looking forward to, even though I am going against the whole successive moments of now thing! (Can’t help it, but I am one of many that enjoyed HBO’s 24 7 take on hockey, and was appreciative of the Capitals (and the Pens) for letting us get inside their workplace and inner sanctums. Naturally I want to see more of the thrill ride that is the Caps!)

Although they are playing great as a team, there are a few Canucks that have upped their game; and two in a quiet sort of way…

First time All-Star, Ryan Kesler isn’t as “pest-like” and mouthy as he used to be. Less talk from the center, more of practically everything else. Kesler is right behind Canucks currently leading scorer, Daniel Sedin (Kes has 24 goals). Same goes with winger, Alex Burrows. He’s also chosen to stifle himself, and let his play alongside the Sedins become top priority. As a fan that is somewhat drawn to pests and agitators, it’s okay…I’ll get used to this ;o)

And that guy that always seems to be on the trade block, blue liner, Kevin Bieksa has really improved after a few wonky years. I could go on and on about every player that’s pushing their game to new heights, so I’ll just leave it at this…

The Canucks are playing with a maturity and that’s making fans weak in the knees: we love it. The Sedin twins continue to dazzle us: so far Daniel’s scored the first goal of the game ten times this season, and Henrik’s leadership has permeated the locker room.

Watching this team do so well during these successive moments has been a treat. Seeing all of them raise their level of play almost leaves this long time Canuck fan a little speechless. And I guess Canuck nation should also thank the Chicago Blackhawks: according to a recent Vancouver Sun article, a late November 7-1 spanking at the hands of the Blackhawks drove the Canucks into a meeting, obviously a powerful one, because they haven’t been the same team since.

Here’s to an exciting game on Friday. I expect it will be a speedy, emotional affair from these two hot teams. There’s something about Caps Nation and the RED that gets “rocked” in Verizon Center. On the coast, we can feel the heat, the atmosphere all the way out here! And what will it be like on the ice? One of those games you know both teams will be completely up for. The Canucks will be fresh off an evening with the Rangers, and hopefully they don’t run out of gas in the third period, something that was a little evident during last Saturday’s tilt with another top team, the Detroit Red Wings (the Canucks blew out the Oilers the night before). I think this game will be decided in overtime. But that’s as far as I can go if I plan to stay in the now…at least until Friday :o)

Many thanks to Lisa and let's hope for all's sake that it's a great game! Speaking of the Sedins, I caught this version of the identical bros (and people have trouble telling my two apart - eegads) playing "The Newlywed Game" on NHLN as I was getting ready for work this morning.

Meanwhile, Puck Daddy is on a mission for the NHL All-Star game to see what would result if the Sedins fought each other if they end up on separate teams. Very funny stuff but a little too close to home for HM as I pretty live the twin fighting scenario out in my living room on a daily basis.....sigh.

Finally, HM gives a big stick tap of gratitude to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg over at DC Sports Bog (one of my daily must reads) for the mention in his post on new Caps blog Puck Buddies. Much obliged for the link love!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Caps Fall to Cats in Overtime Loss

After beating the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, the Capitals met them again for the second time in as many days – this time in sunny (but not so warm) Florida. The Caps were without the services of Alex Semin, Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and DJ King. 32-year old Brian Willsie, who has 12 goals and 21 assists with the Hershey Bears, got the call up on Monday. Meanwhile, defensemen Tom Poti and Tyler Sloan were also scratches with John Erskine suiting up. Speaking of Tom Poti, he has to worry about more than his opponent on road trips. The veteran player suffers from a slew of food allergies and has to make special arrangements to accommodate his dietary needs when he’s on the road or he could become gravely ill. As if taking a puck to the face isn’t enough to deal with.

The boys didn’t get off on the right foot in the opening period with two damaging penalties (Mike Knuble for interference and an uncharacteristic boarding call on Nick Backstrom). That gave the Panthers a rare 5-on-3 and resulted in a power play goal from familiar face Mike Santorelli. Merely two minutes later, Marty Reasoner tallied again for the Cats, giving them a 2-0 lead. Michal Neuvirth had to stand on his head for the period as his team was outshot by the Panthers 20-7 – a dismal number for the visitors that surely had Gabby ranting and raving during the intermission.

End of first: Panthers 2 – Caps 0

The Caps opened the second period on the power play after a first period holding call on Bryan Allen. They got an added bonus of a 10-second 5-on-3 when Mike Weaver took a seat for boarding. The boys could not convert on the power play despite picking up the pace as far as shots on goal. Perhaps the Caps were looking ahead to the Lightning, but whatever the case, they certainly weren’t focusing on avoiding costly penalties. With Jason Chimera already in the sin bin, he was joined by John Carlson, giving the Cats their second two-man advantage of the game. Always stationing his big frame in front of the net, Hockey Mom fave David Booth netted the power play marker to give Florida a three-goal lead.

Thankfully, the Caps weren’t far behind, as Marcus Johansson lit the lamp with help from Laich and Willsie. Then came a lovely pass from Ovechkin to Mike Knuble, who was parked on the right side of the net. Knuble roofed it over the glove of Tomas Vokoun and cut the deficit to one goal.

End of second: Panthers 3 – Caps 2

Marcus Johansson tipped one in from behind the net at 7:12 in the third to tie it up at 3 apiece. The young Swede came -oh so close- to notching a hat trick minutes later but was stopped by Vokoun. The boys got their sixth power play opportunity midway through the final stanza when Evgeny Dadonov (who happens to be on the NHL All-Stars Rookie roster) took a penalty. The Caps’ power play, which propelled them to the top of the league last year, has all but disappeared despite much tinkering on the part of Bruce Boudreau. As the clock ticked below the 60 second mark, the Caps amassed in front of Vokoun’s crease trying to poke in the puck.

At the four-minute point of the OT period, Corey Stillman had a stellar shot on Neuvy and was tripped up by Mike Green (I must point out that he made a dive worthy of at least a bronze medal to get the whistle – drama). As the clock ticked down, the Capitals found themselves short-handed. Neuvirth made some outstanding saves but Dennis Wideman was successful in evading Scott Hannan to roof the game winning goal. Not a great way to start a road trip – a 4-3 loss, especially with the dangerous Lightning flashing on the horizon.

To leave you on a lighter note, if you didn’t make it to Caps Care Casino Night (where the team raised more than $300,000 for charity), Capitals News Network has some fabulous photos of the festive evening. In the meantime, here’s hoping the Caps come out much stronger tomorrow night…

Ovi and Green to Represent Caps on NHL All-Star Team

Big stick tap to Alexander Ovechkin and defenseman Mike Green, who will represent the Washington Capitals on this year's NHL All-Star team. You can see the complete roster, along with rookies who will participate in skills competition here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

HM Happy That Capitals' Youth Shoot Out Winner On Our Side

Each year, the Washington Capitals host a youth shoot out contest that pits a goalie/shooter duo from Maryland against two youth players from Virginia. Hockey Mom is pleased as punch to report that this year's winning goaltender, Colin McNelis, minds the net for my twins' Bantam team. (Congrats to Brian, the winning shooter as well - we've also played on tournament teams with this fine young man).

In July, Colin tried his luck at a shootout competition held at Ashburn Ice in the D.C. suburbs of Ashburn, Va. Colin was one of eight goalies taking three shots each from 16 shooters. Colin had the best score and moved on to the semi-finals.

At the semi-finals, Colin was one of four goalies who were taking three shots from eight shooters. Once again, he stood on his head to earn the best score (only being scored on by one of the eight shooters).

Last Tuesday night, Colin took to the Verizon Center’s ice during the 1st period intermission of the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning game to compete in the finals of the Washington Capitals Shootout Competition. Colin was asked to bring his home and away jerseys from his hockey team to wear out on the ice during the shootout. Colin hung his jerseys and equipment in a locker room across from the  Capitals' room. Colin's proud hockey parents took some pictures and went to grab a bite to eat and watch the Caps practice. They came back to the locker room to find Colin’s jerseys gone, but replaced by an official Washington Capitals jersey with his name and number on it. Colin was thrilled to find this surprise from the Caps!

He and his team mate Brian made their way to the ice while the proud beaming dads made their way to the players' bench to shoot pics and video. The two teams made up of one goalie and one shooter represent the best in the Bantam division (13 and 14 year olds) from Maryland and Virginia.
Colin stopped all three shots and Brian sunk his third shot (sorry no video of Brian’s shot). Their team won! His dad interviewed Colin and Brian afterwards in the locker room just before they were given pucks used during the shootout as gifts. This was in addition to the gift bags they were given by the Caps.

A huge Hockey Mom tap o' the stick to Colin (and Brian) for winning (and in front of a packed and noisy Phone Booth, no less) and also to the Capitals staff involved with their community youth hockey initiatives - a first class effort all the way! I'm glad to report that Colin displayed his winning ways in our 6-3 victory yesterday afternoon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Musings

Well the holiday hoopla and the Winter Classic win is behind us - it's back to work, back to school, back to the grind. To ease the transition, there just happens to be some excellent hockey viewing on the telly tonight in the form of USA versus Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship. Tomorrow night, the Capitals return to action and face a streaking Lightning team who just acquired veteran goaltender Dawyne Roloson from the Islanders. Roloson is expected to get the nod against Washington tomorrow night. The super swift Martin St. Louis leads the Bolts (and sits atop the league) in assists, while superstar Steven Stamkos has 56 points and has lit the lamp 31 times. Bad boy Steve Downie, who has been sidelined by injury, may suit up for the first time since early December against their division rivals.

Other hockey happenings on this January Monday:

  • A Hockey Mom high-five to Semyon Varlamov, for being named First Star of the Week by the NHL. Varly is the first Capitals goaltender to be first star or player of the week since Olie Kolzig on 2/22/04. Varlamov stopped 55 of 56 shots in backstopping the Capitals to a pair of victories,
    including the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He began the week stopping 25 shots for his second shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Dec. 28. Varlamov recorded 32 saves in Washington's 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of 68,111 outdoors at Heinz Field Saturday night. The 22-year-old improved his career regular-season record to 26-8-8 in 45 appearances.
  • More Winter Classic notes - Saturday's Caps/Pens showdown was the most-viewed NHL regular season game in 36 years with an average of 4.5 million watching in primetime.
  • A big stick tap to one of my fabulous Twitter tweeps (@elizamcgraw) for sending me this terrific piece on the joys of being a hockey parent, especially watching your kid fall in love with the game.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sportsmanship is Part of Being a Captain

Hockey Mom is still reveling in the aftermath of the wet and wonderful win by our Caps in the Winter Classic (and re-watching CBC's broadcast - sorry NBC, but they did a mucho better job). And as if Caps fans needed another reason to dislike Sidney Crosby, last night's refusal to shake hands after the game (one of the cool things about hockey) added one more to the list. Since we've been playing travel hockey, no matter how bad you get your butt handed to you, it's a tradition to line up and shake hands. Of course I hear stories from my boys about how opponents mutter obscenities under their breath while shaking hands but hey, at least it appears that they are exhibiting good sportsmanship from our view in the stands.

I came across this piece this morning from The Hockey Writers about the Penguins not participating in the handshake and I had to share. Monica McAlister is right on here - what kind of message does this send to young hockey players who are told by their coaches that they must engage in the handshake line, no matter how badly their pride may be hurt? Sorry Sid - but that was not a smart move...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Caps Beat Penguins in Wet Winter Classic

The Washington Capitals took the ice tonight in one of the most highly anticipated games in team history as they faced down the uber-rival Penguins in the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic. Under the lights at Heinz Field in front of close to 69,000 rabid hockey fans (the majority of them rooting for the home team), the rivalry between captains Sid and Ovi was once again dissected under a microscope on a national stage.

The story lines in this epic battle were many, but none more so than the mutual dislike between the Sid and Ovi. And though neither captain registered any points on the night, Ovechkin doled out one of the games' first big hits, resulting in the ice crew having to adjust the glass. 

The Pens were charged with the first penalty  - a hook by Paul Martin. Jordan Staal, playing in his first
game of the season (what a night to debut, eh?) gave the Pens a boost on the penalty kill against Washington. The first period also saw an old-time hockey bout (kind of went along with the retro jerseys) between Mike Rupp and big John Erskine (who I'm quote sure noted Rupp's elf ensemble seen on HBO's 24/7). Rupp appeared to throw up the white flag before the guys in stripes could intervene.

Semyon Varlamov made the key stops when called upon and John Carlson came to his aid swiping a puck shot by Tyler Kennedy out of mid-air. Despite an awkward tumble by the Great8 mid-shot and getting acclimated the wet ice conditions, the boys played a strong first period

End of first period: Capitals 0 -  Penguins 0

The second period began with several choice scoring opportunities from Alex Ovechkin. But it was another Russian talent, Geno Malkin, notching the game's first tally for the Penguins. His goal was a result of an unfortunate line change on the part of the Caps.

As both teams became more comfortable in the outside environs, the game got even more physical. Brooks Laich was whistled for interference (quite bogusly I might add as he was so obviously pushed
into Marc-Andre Fleury) at 2:59. Then it was the trash-talking Max Talbot's turn to sit after a hold on
Ovechkin. The Caps struggling power play unit went to work and the havoc they created in front of the net paid off big. Mike Knuble poked the puck through the pads of Fleury at 6:58 to light the lamp for the visitors. But the Caps weren't done there. Fleury was playing the puck quite a bit and was on the slow side in getting back around to the net. Jason Chimera almost beat him with a clear wrap around and Eric Fehr succeeded with help from Marcus Johannson to give the boys a 2-1 lead at 14:45. The Pens thought they'd tied it up in the waning minutes of the period but the call was no-goal (after Mike Rupp deliberately ran over Varlamov in the midst of trying to cover the puck). As the period came to a close, Sidney Crosby got shaken up after a hit from big David Steckel - one that the Pens thought should have been penalized.

End of second period: Capitals 2 - Penguins 1

The weather became a factor in the third period as rain began falling harder and appeared to be pooling in areas around the ice (particularly around the goal creases). The precipitation didn't slow down the Capitals and especially Semyon Varlamov as he stood on his head with an eye-popping series of saves
starting at around the 15:21 mark. After killing off a delay of game penalty, the teams switched ice sides at the ten-minute mark. Brooks Orpik decided to rough up an already injured Mathieu Perreault after
checking him to the ice- always a class act, that Orpik. Write him in for the Lady Byng, will ya?

The man of the hour, Eric Fehr, made haste of a give and go started by John Erskine and Jason Chimera and netted his second goal of the night. After taking a 3-1 lead as the seconds ticked off the clock,
the weather wasnt the only thing deteriorating. After every whistle, bitter scrums had to be broken up by the officials and even Ovi got involved in a tussle with Chris Kunitz at game's end. As the Capitals celebrated an incredible statement win in the Penguin's backyard, the appointed hosts refused the traditional post-game handshake.

For the Capitals and their phenomenal fans, what an incredible way to ring in 2011-a huge statement win in primetime in one of the NHL's most spectacular showcases and onward to the remainder of the regular season!