Playoffs, Here We Come! Caps beat Panthers 4-2

Photo credit: Evan Vucci

This is it. The Caps nipping at the heels of the division-leading Panthers, playing to deny them the clinch and maybe snatch their crown.

Jay Beagle scored early, trapping a Troy Brouwer shot with his rump and firing from the sweet spot. Alex Ovechkin got on the board in the second, crashing the net and converting Marcus Johansson’s rebound. Brooks Laich piled on with a sniper shot from the high slot after a long session in the offensive zone. Mikael Samuelsson was all alone in the Caps zone, breaking the shutout with a high wrister. The Cats made it a one-goal game via Ed Jovanovski’s deflect goal early in the third. Alex Semin made it a four-goal night with a minute left. Caps beat Panthers 4-2. We’re playoff-bound, baby!

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Here’s Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys with your penultimate pregamer. Follow @PuckBuddys.

Early Morning Skate: Our doctor advises those of you with heart issues, temper problems, or who are prone to premature catastrophization to avoid watching the Capitals Thursday night. In fact, why not just turn the TV and iPad off and curl up into a little whimpering ball right now.

The rest of us? We few… we lucky few… are ready for, and this is no hyperbole, the single most cosmically important game for any team since the beginning of time. That said, will the Capitals be ready as well?

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Have You Heard? The Caps Are Back.

I feel like I’ve seen this person before… (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Fans enter Verizon Center before the season-opener. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

One hundred fifty-seven days. That’s a long summer for Caps fans. And Saturday night at 7:09 P.M. Eastern Time when six ounces of vulcanized rubber tumbled toward the ice sheet it was finally over.

“The atmosphere was great,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “The fans push us forward all the time. It’s nice to play at home, especially the first game. I know everybody was missing hockey here so it’s nice to come back.”

The trademarks of Caps hockey were all there last night: Sam Wolk pursed his lips to his horn and let lout three loud blasts at the drop of the puck; Wes Johnson bellowed out the name of Alexander Semin (heavy on the “r”) after Washington lit the lamp for the first time this season on Sasha’s tally; William Stilwell, better known as the Goat, let out a thunderous roar of “Let’s Go Caps!” as he stomped the metal beneath his feet when shown on the big screen in the second period.

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A Primer to the Washington Capitals 2011-2012 Season

Primer to the 2011-12 Capitals Season

If you took a break from hockey after May 4th, when the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs, we completely understand. It was rough. But the new season is here, along with reasons for renewed hope. So in case you’ve been avoiding hockey in general and this blog in particular, we’ve prepared a primer to catch you up.

Here is everything you need to know about the Washington Capitals but were afraid to ask (2011-2012 edition).

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Brooks Laich is Back; Ladies, You Can Exhale Now

Brooks Laich

It looks like six more years of high-fives and tire changes are on tap. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As all of you Brooks Laich fans kept hitting refresh instead of working Tuesday morning, the Capitals announced that the soon to be unrestricted free agent had re-signed with the team to the tune of six years and $27 million.

“There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else,” Laich said. “The main core of this team is very young and if you can keep that together, you’re looking at a chance to win a championship for potently the next 10 years, rather than just a window of two to three years. That was a great motivator to get me re-signed.”

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A happier time. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Less than a day after the Caps dropped their second game of the series to Tampa Bay, Bruce Boudreau was asked to assess the state of his club:

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Ovechpunch! Ovechpunch! (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac)

On Wednesday, the Washington Capitals will take on the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Caps haven’t faired well against New York this season, losing three out of four regular season games including 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts. In fact, the 7-0 shutout was so bad, Alex Ovechkin found it necessary to fight. However, that was then. This is now. Let’s take a look at the numbers to preview what should be an interesting matchup.

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Mike Knuble scores in the shootout

Neuvy celebrates with his teammates after coming up victorious in the shootout. (Photo credit: Graig Abel)

Neuvy celebrates with his teammates after coming up victorious in the shootout. (Photo credit: Graig Abel)

What can’t Knuble do? (Photo credit: Graig Abel)

In their first game of the final back-to-back of the season, the Capitals found themselves in Air Canada Centre to face the surging Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the All-Star break, the Leafs have gone a ridiculous and improbable 18-7-5, riding mid-season call-up James Reimer’s (Oops, sorry!) Optimus Reim‘s incredible goaltending back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately for the Leafs, their chances of still making the playoffs were about as likely as Jason Chimera having a 50 goal season: less than one percent. To stave off mathematical elimination for one more night, they had to have either a regulation or overtime win against DC and a loss from Buffalo.

“They have to have every point,” winger Brooks Laich explained to the media after the Capitals pre-game skate. “They have to have every point in regulation the next three games and then hope for the best. This is an elimination game for the Leafs and they’re going to show us their absolute best.

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Alex Ovechkin’s 300th Career Goal

Alex Ovechkin's 300th Career NHL Goal

The puck Ovi blasted home for his milestone marker. (Photo credit: Sergey Kocharov)

The puck Ovi blasted home for his milestone marker. (Photo credit: Sergey Kocharov)

Photo credit: Graig Abel

If there was one word to define Alex Ovechkin’s game since he landed in Washington way back in 2005, it would be overpowering. Three days after assisting on Jason Arnott’s 400th career tally, the 25-year old Russian became the sixth-youngest player in NHL history to reach 300 career goals with — what else — an unstoppable blast from the point that eluded Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer on a 5-on-3 power play. It was his 31st of the season. At 25 years and 200 days, Ovechkin reached 300 goals slower than only NHL Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (22 years, 321 days), Mario Lemieux (23, 179), Dale Hawerchuk (24, 308), Mike Bossy (25, 60) and Steve Yzerman (25, 176). Ovechkin, who already stands third on the franchise’s goal and point scoring lists in only his sixth professional season, also notched the milestone marker in his 476th NHL game, the seventh-fewest ever. Forwards Brooks Laich and Marco Sturm were credited with the assists. Video of the goal is below the jump.

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Winning Ugly: Chimera Pushes Caps Past Jackets, 4-3

Jason Chimera OTGWG

(Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)

Risking dropping their second straight game to a sub-par team, the Washington Capitals were rescued by none other than Jason Chimera, a healthy scratch just a game ago.

For Chimera it was sweet redemption and “especially nice” that it came against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Despite the win, victory wasn’t easy for Washington with sloppy play plaguing the Caps throughout the night.

“We did not do a very good job tonight,” veteran center Jason Arnott said. “There were a lot of bouncing pucks, a lot of nonchalant plays that we don’t normally make … We have to clean up our own zone, it starts tomorrow with the video, and try to correct it and come up with a better effort to back our goaltender up.”

Head Coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to agree Arnott’s view that the Capitals must play better in front of young netminder Michal Neuvirth.

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