Does Alex Semin Care? That was the dominant headline before training camp. On August 17th, former Cap Matt Bradley spoke candidly to an Ottawa radio station and questioned the Russian winger’s commitment to hockey and the team. “When you’ve got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he doesn’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia.”
With a minute left in the third period of Thursday’s game and the Caps up only a goal, Alex Semin showed how much he loved DC by putting the Capitals back in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season with a dazzling individual play. As two Florida Panther defenders shadowed Brooks Laich along the boards, Sasha Minor — unguarded in the corner — took a pass, went strong to the net, and lifted a backhanded shot over Jose Theodore.
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?
During Sunday’s game between the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, former Capitals player (and fan favorite) Matt Bradley suffered what appears to be a significant injury.
During the second period, Anaheim’s George Parros apparently leveled Bradley at center ice with a high shoulder hit. Bradley attempted to hit Parros into the boards in retaliation a few seconds later. Parros slowed to avoid the hit, causing Bradley to collide with the glass headfirst. Bradley was unable to continue playing and required help off the ice and into the locker room. He did not return to the game.
Kris Versteeg wipes out. (Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson)
How was your weekend? The Caps won. That was cool. I bet Coach Hunter is psyched. I lost my cell phone. That sucked.
On Monday night, the Capitals hit the road again, leaving a tumultuous three-game home stand behind them. They’ll be suiting up in Sunrise, Florida, which is a ludicrous name for a city. The hosting team? The Florida Capitals.
Marjory the Trash Heap was also assembled from other people's refuse.
Ahh, shoot! Florida Panthers. Sorry. But the Florida roster does sport four ex-Caps: Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Bradley, Jose Theodore, and Marco Sturm (who shouldn’t really count). How did so many Caps players end up in Florida? Over the summer, Panthers GM Dale Tallon got his checkbook out and started signing free agents all willy nilly just to reach the salary floor.
And now– somehow– the Panthers are at the top of the Southeast Division. No one saw that coming. This team was assembled from spare parts. We had joked that it was a retirement home. These guys shouldn’t have a cohesive personality, let alone a winning record. Instead, they’re 14-8-4 and they’ve commited the fewest minor penalties in the league. It’s disciplined and effective hockey they’re playing in Sunrise, which is still is a stupid name for a city.
Ever since the Panthers beat the tar out of the Lightning 7-4 on Monday, they’ve struggled to put the puck in the net. On Tuesday, they traveled up to DC to face former teammate Tomas Vokoun and got blanked 3-0. Thursday, the trend continued. Down one goal to the Sabres after 30 minutes of listless hockey, Florida was looking for momentum.
Enter Matt Bradley.
After a neutral zone faceoff, the former Capital skated with purpose towards Paul Gaustad and shoved him. You know what happened next.
The Florida Panthers spent their Monday night trouncing the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-4. The Cats used five powerplay goals to fend off a third period rally from their rivals in America’s groin. By now the Panthers are probably already on their way up to Washington.
Here we go. This is the game you’ve been looking forward to. Not the rematch with Tampa, the date with Pittsburgh, or Thursday’s face-off with Jagr. You have been amped for this game: Matt Bradley, Jose Theodore, Tomas Fleischmann– all your exes are coming over for a dinner party and it’s going to be AWKWARD.
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.