Mike Ribeiro was only a rental for the Washington Capitals, acquired to fill a void as the temporary second line center. After his half season with team, he bolted for big money in Phoenix. Many Caps fans, though, still have a soft spot for Ribs and his swag. So, what does Ribeiro think of us? Well, here’s what he said the Coyotes press corps (two people) ahead of Saturday’s game. Continue Reading
Fehrsie looking resplendent at right wing. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Martin Erat and Eric Fehr have both spent significant time this season stuck on the fourth line, a misuse of their considerable talent. But with Alex Ovechkin missing his second game due to an upper-body injury, both wingers now find themselves on Washington’s top trio, skating 20 minutes a night. In 120 minutes of play, the new first line of Erat, Nicklas Backstrom, and Fehr has been fantastic, registering three goals and nine points. For Nick, three of his five goals this year have come in the last two days.
So what’s the key to Nick’s newfound goal scoring ability, and the line’s success as a whole? Well, Ovechkin has generated the vast majority of the first line’s shots this season. Though they are improving, Johansson and Backstrom had the maddening tendency to pass, pass, pass early in the year. Without Ovi, has Backstrom been forced shoot the puck more, always an important factor in scoring goals? In short, no. When I asked him about it, Backstrom insisted that he wasn’t directing any more pucks toward the net than usual. A little late-night research backs him up. Nick has attempted three shots in each of the two games without Ovechkin, roughly in line with his normal pace. So, some nice shots and a bit of luck.
“Yeah, that’s just a coincidence,” Backstrom said with some sass.
Nevertheless, the temporary first line has been impressive. Erat and Fehr deserve credit for holding their own in a new and challenging position, each playing on their third different line this year. Fehr, especially, made a large jump, playing two total polar opposite roles in one week. Monday in Vancouver, he played 12 minutes as the gritty fourth line center. Saturday, he played almost twenty minutes as the first line right wing.
College sweethearts Mick Klock and Haley Buckheit are huge Washington Capitals fans. Their first real date was Game One of the Caps/Rangers playoff series last year. Mick was already a huge fan of the sport, and after that night Haley was one too.
Since then, the couple, who both live in Pennsylvania, have come down to D.C. for Caps games and bought a partial season ticket plan with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.
Mick and Haley wanted to have a couple’s Halloween costume, preferably one that honored their favorite team. They decided to dress up as supercouple Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko. Their costumes are perfect from the blacked-out tooth to the tennis racket.
Picking up the puck from Martin Erat, Oleksy charged towards the faceoff dot. Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson attempted the poke check, but Steve O went all sick nasty, blowing past him. Oleksy then dished the puck to the front of the net and Laich finished the play. Beautiful.
Boyd Gordon celebrates his first period goal on Monday. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
The Washington Capitals got their first hockey (non-shootout) win of the season on Monday, beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. The game, though, was a bit of a mirage. While the power play got back on track with two goals, their struggles at early in the game– especially at even strength– are a massive problem for the team. The Caps were outshot 10-3 in the first period despite playing against arguably the worst defensive team in the league. While the Washington media corps overlooked this in their post-game questions, Adam Oates understands the trend is glaring hole for the team.
“I’m taking suggestions right now,” Oates joked when I asked him how he thought the team could fix its liability. “We addressed it, we talk about it, and hopefully we’ll conquer it. We gotta find a way to just keep focused earlier.”
There are no pictures of Brouwer’s scoreage. Step your game up, photogs. (Photo credit: Geoff Burke)
Troy Brouwer finally got on the scoreboard Monday night, scoring his first goal of the year off some nice tic-tack-toe passing on the power play. It wasn’t the only first in the Brouwer family that night though: Troy and Carmen’s daughter, Kylie, turned one.
“It’s something that I’ll remember,” Brouwer told me. “It was nice to be able to do it now — five games too long for me.”
Unable to throw a party Monday due to the game, the Brouwers hosted a large party for the baby girl at their home on Sunday. A large number of Capitals players attended, along with a myriad of family relatives. At the end, the birthday girl received a large cupcake — there’s no word on whether the 12-month-old was able to metabolize it or what her wish was — and a necklace from Mom and Dad.
Varly’s teammates congratulate him on the win. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)
Photo credit: Patrick Smith
In April 2009, a young Russian goalie by the name of Simeon Varlamov started game two of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals after number one netminder Jose Theodore’s poor game one. The 21-year-old didn’t speak passible English, sported a unibrow, and soon became the talk of the NHL.
Varlamov allowed one goal in his first game and posted a shutout the next. In six games versus the New York Rangers, Varlamov allowed a mere seven goals. Though the Caps would eventually lose to the Penguins in game seven of the semifinals, it appeared that Washington had found their goalie of the future. But two years later, Varlamov (with the spelling of his name now changed to Semyon) was unceremoniously sent to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of draft picks.
Varly had become Washington’s main goalie after Theodore departure, but after battling groin injuries as an explosive, athletic goaltender, he struggled to get back in the crease when healthy. Bruce Boudreau, the Caps coach at the time, seemed to favor fellow 2006 draft pick Michal Neuvirth. With his contract up at the end of the 2011-12 season, Varly wanted to be assured of starting spot. The Caps weren’t interested in that. On July 1, Varlamov was sent to Colorado. He signed a three-year contract with the team the next day.
Now, three years later, Varly was back in Washington to face Neuvirth for the first time. At least in the first round, he came out on top.
“I was so nervous,” Varlamov said in much improved English, as his teammates cheered him on in the background. “Lots of memories to play here. That was my first game since I left Washington, that’s why I think I’m too nervous in warmup. My legs were shaking. All of the first period, my legs shaking.”
The fourth line of the Washington Capitals is an interesting thing. It features a $4.5 million veteran playmaker on the left (Martin Erat), a 22-year-old up-and-down call-up at center (Michael Latta), and a 19-year-old wrecking ball on the right (Tom Wilson). We’ll focus on Latta for now. In his return to the lineup, the new guy drew two penalties and delivered some nice hits. That’s about all you can ask from a fourth liner, though the trio’s good game was muted by Carolina’s winning third period goal.
“Drawing two penalties is excellent,” head coach Adam Oates told reporters. “You want that from that line. You want them to create opportunities and get momentum: that’s what a forth line does.”