Video: Tomas Vokoun’s Save of the Year Candidate

While his teammates in front of him were having a bit of a vacation hangover, Tomas Vokoun was brilliant in net during the Capitals’ 4-3 (OT) loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday. Vokoun made 27 saves, including stoning Steven Stamkos on a breakaway in regulation. The Czech netminder’s best stop however came in overtime, when — down on the ice and out of position — he stretched out and caught Vincent Lecavalier’s shot from the crease with his glove. Check out the video below the jump.

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So much almost. (Photo credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Whew, what a relief that the All-Star Weekend is over! We’re all so sick of watching haphazard, sloppy, firewagon hockey that turns over pucks and gives up chances every few seconds, it’s such a relief to get back to the responsible, disciplined team we all missed so much.

Hahaha! Let’s all have a good laugh at that one for a minute, and then to the recap. I am pleased to inform you that the curse of my recaps was broken tonight. Actual goals were scored.

Matt Hendricks opened the scoring with the ol’ Brooks-Laich-diving-poke-check-pass, fan-on-the-initial-and-then-wildly-backhand-it move. Classic. Teddy Purcell scored two shifts later on a feed from Steve Downie, who mysteriously hadn’t had his face punched in yet at this point. All Martin St. Louis had to do was skate past Hamrlik lying face-down on the ice to make it 2-1. Nate Thompson banged one in on a good cycle from Tampa in front of the net. Mathieu Perreault was in the right place at the right time to take credit for a hilarious own goal off Thompson’s stick. Good pressure from Laich forced a puck loose for Troy Brouwer, who put it in the back of the net. The game went to overtime, and Steven Stamkos scored on a defensive breakdown from John Carlson. Caps lose, 4-3.

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(All pics by Kyle Mace at Sweetest Hockey on Earth)

Welcome to the Washington Capitals, Fists of Fury edition. A few key pieces are essentially dead right now, and some others are playing like they are, so these holes will be filled by kids from Hershey, which is what they are there for.

I know you are all smart and cool people who keep up to date on our minor leaguers, but if you are at all behind in this I do not blame you, as there are like a million of them. In case you are wondering who in the world this is on your ice, here is a quick rundown!

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NHL All-Stars Suffering from Concussions and Head Injuries

Special thanks to Gary Bettman for letting the guys out of the Quiet Room long enough for us to snap this pic. Enlarge. (Photo illustration by Ian Oland)

The stars of the All-Star Game were a little less bright this year. Some of the familiar faces that fans expect were absent for reasons that are becoming all too familiar in the modern NHL: head injury. Approximately 85 head injuries have been reported this year, meaning that nearly ten percent of all active players have been injured. 28 of 30 teams have reported at least one head injury, while some franchises have dealt with as many six or seven. With star center Nicklas Backstrom now sitting out due to concussion, the issue has hit close to home for Caps fans.

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Tampa Bay Lightning Pregame: Tampa Smells

Doug Johnson of the Puck Buddys is back from break. Follow PB on Twitter.

The Pregame: Tampa. Sh*t, I’m still only in Tampa.

Or them, technically. Meaning us. As in, them, Tuesday night, isn’t us. And us don’t like them.

As dance partners go, Tampa Bay is the nattering, grabby-hands B.O. champion* of NHL cities. The one you get stuck with while your date runs off for a giggle as you try to shake him/her/it loose, but you can’t, because no-one else will even look at them, as they are now adhered to you like dog stain on rug, like flab on hips, like a vote-starved politician (redundant!) to your wallet.

Try as you might, they just won’t go away, and the longer they stay attached to you your social capital sucks dry as you furiously look for some escape but come to realize that, no, you and this thing are now welded together in a grotesque, condemned to dancing together for all eternity, or at least until realignment. Face it, Tampa: you smell.

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The Score’s Top 10 Goals Features the Caps Not in a Good Way

Justin Bourne of The Score published a video on Tuesday capturing his top 10 goals of the 2011-12 season (so far). It’s a good list with a ton of action, but it might stir up some bad memories for you. Not only are no Washington Capitals players on the list, but three of the ten goals happened against D.C. goalies.

Enjoy the video and follow me past the jump:

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Capitals During Wartime: Road-Weary

[Ed. note: this is the second article in our series about the Capitals’ struggles leading up to the trade deadline. The first Capitals During Wartime post addressed the team’s problems with the center position.]

At the end of All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast Division, but their prospects for the postseason are not secure. The Southeast has two challengers– the Florida Panthers (with whom the Caps are virtually tied) and the Winnipeg Jets. Plus, the Capitals have a tough schedule down the stretch– including some tough games on the road. When Neil Greenberg at the Washington Post looked at the Caps’ remaining schedule, he was not encouraged.

That’s because the road is where the Capitals have had most of their troubles this season. The team’s home record of 18-6-1 is fourth best in the league, but away they are just 8-13-2, a dismal 25th. One spectacularly bad road game in Buffalo on November 26th probably cost Coach Boudreau his job. The power play and penalty kill perform vastly better in Verizon Center than they do when away. With 18 away games remaining, the Capitals will have to do better on the road if they want to make the playoffs.

The article looks at the Caps’ troubles away from D.C. from several angles: possession, shooting, special teams, and Alex Ovechkin. And because it’s interesting, I’m comparing Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter too. Uh oh.

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Not Alex Ovechkin. (Pic via capitals.com)

For those of you who like the All-Star Game, good news: this game was just as loose and ridiculous as you could have possibly dreamed. For those of you who dislike the All-Star Game, good news: it’s over.

We return to real hockey on Tuesday and thank goodness for that, but it was a nice weekend of rest for most of our team, and a nice weekend of dumb, mindless spectacle for hockey fans. I expect to see the rest of the Caps come back with suntans, and Dennis Wideman to come back with a smile on his face. As silly as most of the actual events of the weekend are, recognition is and always will be one of the best feelings in the world, especially for a guy like Wideman that rarely gets what he deserves.

It’s still official Dennis Wideman Day for the rest of Sunday, and then after that you can go back to your regularly scheduled Caps fandom.

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Ka-POW! (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

Tonight was the gimmick to end all gimmicks, this was the real pony show. I know there are those of you who think the Skills Event is completely stupid and contrived, but let’s face it, if you got together a bunch of young hockey players, gave them a lot of alcohol, and just left them to their own devices, you’d probably get about the same result anyway.

I think we can all agree that this is probably not the kind of event that’s tailored to Dennis Wideman’s particular skillset. I’m not sure what kind of competition they could have held that would have been perfect for him, in fact–Best Replacement Mike Green? Grossest Lower Body Injury (Grossest Upper Body Injury of course is currently held by Matt Hendricks).

I won’t call attention to a certain Youtube blooper, but I’m just glad that he chose not to do trick shots. I would hate for him to have to relive traumatic memories. Instead, Wideman was entered in the Hardest Shot and the Challenge Relay portions of the competition, though entering the Hardest Shot competition for Zdeno Chara’s team is kind of like being the other US swimmer in the lane next to Michael Phelps. I have to end the affectionate ribbing by reiterating that I love Dennis Wideman. He’s fourth overall in points for defenseman. He deserves to be where he is, and it was fun to watch the huge smile on his face the whole time.

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Few jobs in the NHL suck more than Brendan Shanahan‘s. As the guy in charge of player safety, Shanahan has presided over 26 suspensions so far this season. Shanahan began publishing videos to document each infraction and provide transparency to a process that had been considered arbitrary in previous years.

I didn’t pay too much attention to supplemental discipline until this week, when Alex Ovechkin earned a three-game suspension for charging Zbynek Michalek. Ovechkin’s was the 10th three-game suspension of the year. With a big enough sample for comparison and Shanahan’s explanation for each, we’re finally able to peer into the underlying logic– and fairness– behind these rulings.

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