Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Caps Lose to Fiery Canes in Shootout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Countdown to Playoffs and Caps on the Mend

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

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

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

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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

NHL Focuses on Concussions and What to Do About Matt Cooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Caps Blank Hot Devils at the Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Braden Holtby Shines as NHL's First Star

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

From the NHL press release:


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

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

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Caps Defeat Blackhawks in Overtime Thriller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hockey Mom Weighs in on Head Hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ovechkin to Make Wish Come True

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Caps Zap Bolts in 2 -1 Shoot Out Win

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

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

End of first period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 0

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

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

End of second period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 0

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

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

End of third period: Lightning 1 - Capitals 1

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

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Capitals Surge to Chase Away the Blues

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

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

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

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

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