By Stu Krantz
This week is near the end of the quarter. I’ve had around 5-6 hours of homework every night. You wouldn’t stay up until midnight watching the Caps get called for a bunch of penalties in Edmonton either.
Game 8: 2-1 loss in Edmonton: The upstart Oilers handed the Caps their first loss last Thursday. Youngsters Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall had the goals for the Oilers, while Karl Alzner potted the only goal for Washington. Recently-incarcerated Nikolai Khabibulin had 34 saves and a .971 SV%. The refs refused to put away their whistles for the first 2 periods, calling the Caps for a whopping 9 minor penalties through the first 40 minutes of play. 3 Stars: 1. Khabibulin 2. Jordan Eberle 3. Stephane Auger and Dan O’Halloran (those who donned the zebra stripes, for the uninitated)
Game 9: 7-4 loss in Vancouver: Tomas Vokoun started things off badly by going out to play the puck, but actually taking a Max Lapierre shot off his skates and into the net. The Canucks went up 3-1, but goals from Mike Knuble, Alex Ovechkin, and Marcus Johansson for the Caps and Alex Edler (again) for the Canucks made it 4-4. Soon after, Ovie took a penalty and the Canucks never looked back, beating the Caps in the end by a score of 7-4. 3 Stars: 1. Alex Edler (2G, 1A) 2. Max Lapierre (2G, 1 being awesome) 3. Chris Higgins (2G)
Game 10: 5-4 OT Win vs. Anaheim: Lots of controversy here, as Alex Ovechkin was not put on the ice by Bruce Boudreau during the final two minutes of play when the Caps were trying to tie it up (which Nick Backstrom eventually did). More on this later. How did we get to this point, you inquire? Saku Koivu (blessed be his soul) scored 9 minutes into the 1st. Teemu Selanne, aka cue little girl voice the greatest hockey player to play ever who should not ever retire for all time, potted 2 goals to make it 3-0. Ward, Wideman and 2011 Hart Trophy winner and Anaheim Duck Corey Perry (on the PP) scored to make it 4-2. However, as we all know, the Caps love digging themselves holes only to climb out of it. Which they did, to great fanfare. A Troy Brouwer shot deflected off Jonas Hiller’s glove to make it 4-3. Backstrom tied it up with 40 seconds remaining in the game, then won it for the Caps in OT to stop Washington’s slide at 2 games. 3 Stars: 1. Nick Backstrom 2. Teemu Selanne 3. Saku Koivu (hey, if he does anything significant, I am morally obligated to give him a star).
Boy, this one was never even close. What a statement by the Caps.
Recap: Mike Green started it off with 6 minutes left in the 1st with his first of 2 PPGs in the game. A minute later, Marcus Johansson roofed it from the side of the net on a nice pass from Alex Semin. 5 minutes into the 2nd, Green scored his 2nd PPG on a laser-guided missle (LGM, something I’d like to establish here: ashot with both great speed and accuracy). Niklas Kronwall made it interesting on the PP halfway through the 2nd, but Mathieu Perrault scored the goal that broke the Winged Wheel’s back on a tap-in with 8 seconds left in the period on a puck that squirted through Ty Conklin. Goals from Joel Ward, Perrault (again) and Nick Backstrom in the 3rd period put the Wings away for good.
Plus: Nick Lidstrom, playing in his 1,500th NHL game received a standing ovation to mark the milestone and also recorded a team-high 5 shots on goal…Tomas Vokoun had 32 saves and a .970 SV%…Mike Green added 2 assists in addition to his 2 Gs…Nick Backstrom now has 10 points on the year, putting him close to the top of the league. Can you say “bounce-back”?…Troy Brouwer had 5 hits…Alex Ovechkin and Matt Hendricks both had 2 assists…
Minus: Jakub Kindl, Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen were all -3…Brooks Laich won only 6 of 20 faceoffs…Nick Backstrom won only 4 of 12 faceoffs…the Caps’ 7 goals came on only 25 shots…not sure if this is a minus or plus, but I’ll put it here: no player on the Caps had more than 3 shots…Alex Ovechkin had only 1 shot…Ty Conklin had a save % of 72%…
3 Stars: 1. Vokoun 2. Green 3. Perrault
Nightly Nugget: Mike Green tied his career high for points in a single game with 4 (2G, 2A)
Next Up: Caps get a much-deserved rest before heading to Edmonton on Thursday.
Caps are 6-0-0 to Detroit’s 5-0-0. Caps have looked very good so far, but the Wings might have just looked better. I just had to preview this.
What to watch for: -Unless the Caps and Wings meet in the Finals, a very real possibility right now, this is most likely the last time fans and Caps players alike will get to see Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom play in person. Good story by Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times about what that means to their fellow Swedish players.
-Michal Neuvirth will miss another game, according to Caps Insider. Tomas Vokoun will start and his backup will be Dany Sabourin once again.
-Will the Caps be able to score goals? Detroit has only allowed a mind-boggling 7 goals in 5 games so far. Also, as Steven Hindle points out, there is not a single Capitals player in the top 30 in SOG. The Wings are allowing only 27 SOG per game. Infer what you wish.
-Matchup to watch: Detroit’s PP is heating up, going 4 for 8 in their last 2 games. Caps PK is in a 3-way tie for 15th in the League at 83.3%
-I’m interested to see Mike Knuble and Tomas Holmstrom on the ice at the same time to compare what they do. They are both “garbagemen”–they collect all the trash (and turn it into goals). Holmstrom has made a career of it–the guy is incredible. He just stands in front of the goalie, and nothing can remove him. He gets hit by shots and knocked on his ass, but no matter. He just tips the puck in.
-Detroit did play last night, beating a super-depleted Jackets team 5-2. Being on the tail end of a back to back, on the road, is never helpful.
Between the pipes: Tomas Vokoun vs. Ty Conklin. Jimmy Howard got the W last night in Columbus, so veteran backup Conklin gets the call tonight. Vokoun is 5-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA. Conklin, in his only start of the year, got the shutout vs. Colorado, stopping 29 shots.
Happy Statistic: This is Lidstrom’s 1500th NHL game. Yet another milestone for him.
Prediction: I really like the Wings this year, and am not totally sold on Caps’ ability to produce in really important games yet (this will show us). 3-2 Wings in OT.
According to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had them skating suicides in practice today (which, as someone who’s got a few skating suicides to his name, is not a lot of fun). Pretty much sums up yesterday’s game.
(Ed. Note: I’m going to try a new format today. I’ll give you all the goals and then some other key plays) Recap: 0-1 Flyers, 14:25 in 1st: Wayne Simmonds poke checked Semin at the blue line. Claude Giroux grabbed it and took it in all alone and deked out Vokoun for his 5th goal in 6 games.
1-1, 18:40 in 1st: After a bad clear by the Flyers, Mathieu Perrault fires a wrister towards the net, which hits off the stick of Braydon Coburn and into the goal.
2-1 Caps, 19:48 in 1st: Alex Ovechkin fires it in at the goalmouth with 12 seconds left in the 1st.
3-1 Caps, 2:23 in 3rd: Roman Hamrlik just dumps it towards the goal from the blueline and it deflects off Andreas Lilja and winds up in the goal.
4-1 Caps, 3:54 in 3rd: On the Power Play, Alex Ovechkin fires it in on a one-timer from the slot off a pass from Backstrom.
5-1 Caps, 4:48 in 3rd: Joel Ward deflects a Jeff Schultz shot in front of Bryzgalov for his first goal as a Cap
5-2 Caps, 19:45 in 3rd: 1st round pick Sean Couturier knocks it in goalmouth to reduce the Caps’ lead to 3 with 15 seconds left in the game.
Key Plays: James Van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere were both stopped by Vokoun in front of the goal in the middle of the 3rd period when it was 5-1 Caps. If not stopped, those goals would have made it interesting.
Plus: Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves for his fifth straight win…Alex Ovechkin had his first multi-goal game of the year…Matt Hendricks, Joel Ward and Mathieu Perrault were all +2…Nick Backstrom tallied 2 assists…Van Riemsdyk had 7 SOG…
Minus: Brayden Schenn, playing in his first NHL game for the Flyers after being acquired from the Kings in the Richards trade, was a -3, as was Scottie Hartnell…The Flyers allowed 3 goals in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd period…
3 Stars: 1. Ovechkin 2. Vokoun 3. Backstrom
Nightly Nugget: Tomas Vokoun’s 5-game winning streak is the longest of his career since 2005-06
Next Up: The Caps welcome fellow humanoids, the Red Wings, to the Verizon Center on Saturday.
It wasn’t even really as close as it sounds. A pretty bland game, with all the action happening in the 1st period.
Recap: Nick Backstrom scored on the Power Play to kick things off on a nice pass from Alex Semin. Backstrom netted it from just beyond the right goalpost. Then my man Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 when he carried the puck down the left-hand boards and went 5-hole on Alex Auld on a wraparound– a goal which, really, if it had not been Alex Auld would not have been a goal. Then Peter Regin cut the Caps’ lead in half on a crazy shot from almost 180 degrees to the net (goalpost was on his right). Craig Laughlin said it best: “If he was right handed, that’s not a goal.” But would he have even been in that situation if he was right-handed? Where would his career be if he was a righty? Food for thought.
Plus: Caps finally won in regulation. That’s a good thing…The Caps only took 1 penalty, and killed it off. Alex Semin managed to contain his urge to hook someone…Vokoun stopped 33 of 34…Ovechkin had 7 shots on goal…Mike Knuble had 2 assists…Roman Hamrlik has now played the most games of any Czech-born and -trained player (important to note the “trained”, because Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita was Czech but grew up in Canada)…
Minus: The Caps only managed 2 goals on Alex Auld…According to Japers’ Rink, Ovechkin was absent from the Caps’ top PP unit, and when he came back, he wasn’t on point. THAT makes sense…Erik Karlsson, the Sens’ promising young Swedish blueliner, was outplayed by his Carlson counterpart, John…
Injuries: Ottawa D Sergei Gonchar left in the 1st after blocking a shot and didn’t come back. Word from the Senators is that he has a bruised foot…
3 Stars: 1. Auld (gotta do it) 2. Vokoun 3. Knuble
Nightly Nugget: Not Caps related, but very significant: On this day in history, Wayne Gretzky scored his 1,851st NHL point. This surpassed Gordie Howe for most points in the NHL all-time, a record that still stands and is not likely to be broken soon, if ever.
Next up: The Caps welcome the Florida Panthers and Jose Theodore to the Verizon Center on Tuesday. As someone who finds Theodore more entertaining than probably anything on TV that night, you know I’ll be watching.