Leafs beat Caps 5-4, Stunning Comeback

Mathieu Perreault celebrates his first goal of the year

Mathieu Perreault is the bright spot in this tough loss. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

CAPTION (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Colton Orr helps D.J. King with some facial redecoration. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Former Caps coach Ron Wilson brought his Toronto Maple Leafs to town looking for some redemption in their beleaguered season. The Washington Capitals meanwhile searched for the first win in their so-far unsuccessful extended home stand and switched up their roster to handle injuries from Sloan, Erskine, Steckel. With Hershey hotshot Mathieu Perreault (hereafter Matthew Perot) pinching in, it looked for a while like the goal-crazy Caps of seasons past had returned. But they leaned back in the third period, and… well, I don’t really have the heart to tell you.

Matty got on the big board on his first shift– less than three minutes into the game, deflecting a wrister off Tom Poti from the paint. Clarke MacArthur responded by shaking off John Carlson and teasing Neuvirth with a pause. It took two swings for Mike Knuble to earn a powerplay goal, the 249th of his career, and regain the lead. Perry struck back from the circles after waiting for a screen. Alex Ovechkin scored a whizzer of a wristshot to give the Caps an insurmountable 4-1 lead. Well, sorta. Mikhail Grabovksi, Tim Brent, and Clarke MacArthur each found their chances to exploit the snoozing home team, evening it up in the final 90 seconds. Overtime came and went. The shootout proved to be Mikhail Grabovski’s shining moment– as a spinarama escaped Michael Neuvirth’s pads. Leafs beat Caps 5-4 (SO).

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Alzner, Schultz & Hendricks at British Embassy ‘Stache Bash

Karl Alzner poses with teammates Jeff Schultz and Matt Hendricks

The estimable Chris Gordon of CapsSnaps.com (@Caps_Snaps) tells us all about the limey culmination of Movember at the British Embassy, attended by three of our favorite lip-adorned Capitals. Take it away, Chris.

It was clear the evening was going to be different when Jeff Schultz and Matt Hendricks showed up at the British Embassy dressed as policemen. Schultz had been combing the Internet looking for prominent mustachioed actors to dress up as: Burt Reynolds or maybe Tom Selleck from Magnum, P.I.

With the Caps on the road, he ran out of time. So MacKenzie Kelley, Schultz’s girlfriend, did the next best thing and bought police uniforms at a costume store.

Getting in the spirit of the event, Dominick Chilcott, the deputy head of the British Embassy, thanked the Caps for showing up as “The Village People.”

The occasion was a mustache-growing contest among the British, New Zealand and Australian embassies for Movember. Hockey is hardly a big sport in Britain, but the Caps met the crucial test to attend: they had mustaches.

Karl Alzner, the third Cap at the “Stache Bash”, did not wear a costume, but he did burnish his image. He confessed that his mustache had come in a little blond and had been dyed.

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Jessica’s Movember Birthday Adventure with the Caps

Jessica with Eric Fehr

Editor’s note: November was a remarkable for the Washington Capitals. Not only because of the team’s success (10 wins in 14 games), but also the mustaches some team members grew. Movember, as it is called, is a month-long charity event to raise awareness for men’s health. Reader Jessica M. shares her story of the Movember party held at Lyon Hall this past Sunday night.

John Carlson poses with Jessica.

John Carlson poses with Jessica.

Well, this past year has been pretty crappy for me. At 36, I was diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer and underwent four surgeries (including the one that led to the first diagnosis). Thankfully, both tumors were caught early and I am now cancer-free. So I decided to celebrate the hell out of my birthday this year.

My husband Kevin and I had already bought tickets to the Caps/Canes game on the 28th, my birthday– we splurged and got seats four rows off the ice. Now seems like a good time to add that I’ve only once seen a game live that the Caps lost, and that was seven years ago in the pre-Ovi era (I remember because it was on my 30th birthday). So unlike Peter, I have a pretty good record for seeing Caps wins. I have to admit, I was afraid that record was about to go down in flames after the score was tied with 2.2 seconds left to go, but the boys pulled out a win on my birthday! That was present enough right there.

But I had more celebrating to do. We decided at the last minute to get tickets to the Movember party at Lyon Hall. Since I’ve survived cancer this year, it’s become a cause near and dear to my heart. My grandfather died of prostate cancer; my father-in-law thankfully did not, though he did undergo treatment for it. I think it’s really important to raise awareness of certain cancers, both men’s and women’s, that don’t get a lot of attention, so I’m grateful to the Caps for participating in Movember this year. And thanks also to Lyon Hall for hosting the event!

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The Constant Changing Of The Linemates

bruce-make-up-your-mind

The Caps blew out Tampa Bay 6 to nothing, and– just when we thought sitting Fleischmann was the answer the lines were clicking– we got more change. Admit it: you thought line combos were chosen using random ping pong ball selection. How else can you explain the constant Changing Of The Linemates?

This week we’ll take a quick look at how the top 6 line combos and blueline pairings are doing at even strength and how the goalies are doing overall, with respect to scoring chances. In the following weeks (as I get more comfortable with SQL) I will add goals scored for and against. For now it’s just scoring chances. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

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Poor Effort, Bad Bounces Sink Caps: Thrashers Win 5-0

Braden Holtby: despondent.

A despondent Braden Holtby looks on after giving up the third goal of the night. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

Ovi reacts after missing a shot in the second period. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

Ovi reacts after missing a shot in the second period. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

When Joe B. and Locker finished their pre-game intros and CSN cameras zoomed in for the opening face-off, it was hard not to notice the rows and rows of empty seats in Phillips Arena. The Capitals, seemingly aware of their surroundings, lacked energy and focus and proceeded to play down to their opponents. After giving up three quick goals to Ben Eager, Nik Antropov, & Evander Kane respectively, Braden Holtby was quickly summoned to the Caps bench by an enraged Bruce Boudreau.

Michal Neuvirth was steady in relief, but unfortunately for the Capitals, they were never able to locate their game after the switch. The offense was blessed with quality scoring chance after quality scoring chance but all resulted either in a missed shot, a ping off the post, or a solid save by Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

Evil cheeseburger-eater Dustin Byfuglien then put the game officially out of reach, closing the second period with a nifty short-side wrist shot past Neuvy. And let’s not even talk about that Burmistrov goal. I’m still angry at Jeff Schultz, who stopped skating, got deked out of his jockstrap and resembled a giant, awkward pylon on the play. Whatever. Thrashers win 5-0.

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The Erskine Supremacy: Caps beat Thrashers 6-4

John Erskine scores the GWG!

“Can you believe we won this???” (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another.

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

This third meeting of the Washington Capitals and Atlanta Thrashers was not overshadowed by injury like the season-opener was by Ondrej Pavelec‘s collapse. Instead, we were treated to a cavalcade of slapstick puckery. The puck had a mind of its own tonight, and the game’s three goalies were none too happy about it.

Alex Ovechkin opened it up early with a lucky bounce knocked in by goalie Chris Mason. Mason had already bobbled an earlier shot; this one he knocked in all by himself. Mike Green piled on with a mustache-fueled power play goal hooked up by Eric Fehr and Mike Knuble. Atlanta’s Rich Peverly turned in what was either a world-class goal or a total fluke (we vote the latter). Tyler Sloan dove in front of a shot to lead to a turnover and breakaway for Alex Ovechkin. Ovie’s pass enabled Alex Semin to score a dazzling deke-and-goal that should humble the authors of the All-Star game ballot.

Like an out-of-control garbage truck full of terminally ill kittens, the second period brought destruction and woe to all in its path (i.e. the Capitals). Andrew Ladd scored one and Bryan Little scored two, the last of which was a shorthanded breakaway furnished by the careless puck control of our very own Russian Machine.

The third period languished on for 13 minutes before John Erskine– yes, that John Erskine– rocketed the game winner past relief goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Then David Steckel found the empty net as Capitals players are so eager to do.

Phew, that was exhausting. Caps beat Thrashers 6-4.

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The Many Faces of Alex Semin: Caps beat Leafs 5-4 (SO)

Alex Semin's game-winning shootout goal

CAPTION GOES HERE

After the GTG, 21 busts out the classic "flying hug" move. (Photo credit: Susan Walsh)

Bad stick penalties, better goals. Vintage Sasha. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

The upshot: The Caps squeak by an uneven bout with the trouble Toronto team to win in the shootout. But man, there’s a lot more than that. The Red Army has yet to play solid games back to back. The defensive end had lots of trouble, especially in the third, but the oh-fense was spectacular. The first period was sleepy, the second period electric, the third period a near disaster.

If that last paragraph reads disjointed, it’s only because the game was too (that and I’m not using conjunctions).

For the nth game this season, the Capitals were polite enough to let the other team score first. Nikolai Kulemin takes the puck, gets John Erskine to dive, and lures Michal Neuvirth a bit wide before shooting. MG52 answered with a PPG (now that’s what we’ve been missing!). Jason Chimera showed determination in the slot, accepting a deft pass from Boyd Gordon in the corner and then repeatedly swatting the puck until it snuck under Jonas Gustavsson‘s loins for the go-ahead. Either John Carlson (slapper) or Tomas Fleischmann (tip-in) scored the third goal, and the jury may be out on that one for a long time.

The third period was a bloodbath, filled with a troika of Leafs goals from Kaberle, Versteeg, and Bovak. Toronto claimed the lead, and it seemed the Caps were headed for a loss. And then Alex Semin, whom Boudreau almost scratched due to illness, converted an unlikely power play chance. Overtime came and went. The shootout found Ovechkin and Semin scoring wizardly goals and Michal Neuvirth stopping two attempts. Even though the Canadian bastards escaped with a point, at least we can say Caps beat Leafs 5-4 (Shootout).

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PDO and Why The Caps May Be Struggling

Alex Ovechkin, inches away from a potential goal against New Jersey. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)

I know there are some out there that don’t put much faith in statistics and feel it is a small step up from voodoo, but when a metric like PDO is an incredibly strong predictive tool for individual players, it deserves some notice.

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Bruins beat Caps 4-1: Mortifying

Milan Lucic celebrates as John Carlson and Semyon Varlamov turn away in horror.

Varly looks like Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull only angrier. (Capture by @Caps_Girl)

Varly looks like DeNiro in Raging Bull, only angrier. (Capture by @Caps_Girl)

Milan Lucic and the Bruins are too much for the Caps to handle for a second straight night. (Photo credit: Mary Schwalm)

Every great song is about loss of some kind: loss of life, loss of a beautiful woman, or loss of that loving feeling. The Capitals should probably download some Righteous Brothers on their iPiddles about now.  Maybe some Chuck Brown to commemorate the miserable funk they’re in. Maybe some Hank Williams to soundtrack the drowning of sorrows. Or maybe some Dark Tranquility– you know, death metal: really brutal stuff to remind them of how brutal this game was.

What can we say?  Besides the last ten minutes, this was some of worst Caps hockey we’ve seen in more than a year. But we can’t deny that Bruins were truly dialed in, most of all due to senior goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped 38 of 39 Caps shots (a season high). But it must be said that the lion’s share of the shots he faced seemed predestined for his pads.  Not that he wasn’t terrific, but that Caps awfulness might have inflated that perception.

It seems unfair to pick any players out for bad performances; it was almost uniformly bad. Like last game, the Caps are still wracked by injury, direly missing Boyd Gordon and Mike Green in particular. Like last game, they struggled to clear the defensive zone and coordinate forward thrusts, often feeding avaricious Bruins perching on the forecheck. Like last game, they didn’t put pucks in the air against a virtuoso butterfly goalie who owned the low area. And just like last game, they were hoisted with their own petard. Bruins beat Caps 4-1.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Oct 16, 2010

jeff-schultz-slapshot

Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

With five games in the books, I survived my first week of logging scoring chances, including DVRing the game Saturday night and catching up Sunday. If you haven’t read it already, my first post explains what I consider a scoring chance. As always, you can see this spreadsheet on Google Docs where I update them every week.

The Caps are getting their money’s worth for Jeff Schultz, who hasn’t had a goal against yet – and that includes leading the Caps in PK minutes with only allwoing a paltry three scoring chances against a man down. When he signed the contract extension this summer, I wrote Schultz could be “one of the NHL’s best bargains two to four years from now. If not sooner.” So far, so good.

On the flipside we have John Erskine, who is the only Capital with a negative scoring chance differential in double digits. Put another way, the Caps give the opposition 2.5 more scoring chances for every 15 minutes Erskine is on the ice. Some of this can be explained because he is being used mostly in the defensive zone as Coach Bodreau’s shutdown blueliner. When John Carlson, the other half of this new shutdown pair is only a minus 2, what explains the rest of it?

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