Matt Bradley is about to bleed. (Photo credit: Michael Dwyer)
The Washington Capitals mounted one of their largest offensive pushes ever to try and stop the Boston Bruins from extending their losing streak to eight. Nope.
The Bruins scored the first three goals of the night all in the first period: a screened shot by Patrice Bergeron, a deflection off Scott Hannan by Andrew Ference (his first in 99 games), and a five-holer by Blake Wheeler. Matt Bradley responded early in the second with a dangle-and-wrist from a tight angle. Karl Alzner turned on hero mode, slapping one in off Tim Thomas’ shoulder to keep the Caps within striking distance. Despite a furious effort in the waning moments, the Bruins felled the Caps 3-2.
Varlamov takes on all comers. (Photo credit: Tom Gannam)
[Ed. note: Peter has a fever and is kind of loopy. Go easy on him.]
Tonight the Washington Capitals had their first chance to exact vengeance on Jaroslav Halak since he shut the Caps down in the playoffs. Now suiting up with the St. Louis Blues, Halak is the most foreboding embodiment of the Capitals’ postseason woes besides perhaps the Caps themselves. In an uneven effort, the Caps managed to exorcise- at least partially- those Halak-faced demons. But the big story was Semyon Varlamov, who padded his highlight reel with some improbable, firecracker saves.
Brooks Laich scored a PPG on the Caps second shot of the night, a high puck right up in Halak’s face. Boyd Gordon recorded his first tally of the year by Jedi-mind-tricking Halak to bobble the puck in himself for the second time this year. The Blues woke up with a screened spin-shot from Alexander Steen that Varly never saw coming. In the third period, Knuble and Backstrom swapped roles: near the paint, 19 converted the rebound off 22’s high-slot slapshot. In the final minute, with the Blues net abdicated, Alex Ovechkin gave Nick Backstrom the empty-net goal layup. Caps beat Blues 4-1.
Either the rumors were true, or even a blind squirrel bumps into a nut sometimes. In the end, Tomas Fleischmann is now a mile high, traded to the Colorado Avalanche for blueliner Scott Hannan.
If we look at the trade from Flash’s point of view, it’s a great move. He goes to a team that wants him, most likely to fill a Top 6 spot left vacant when leading scorer Chris Stewart broke his hand in a fight with Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what a player needs to get back on track. RMNB wishes him the very best.
Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)
Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media.
The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.
So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.
Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.
Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!
ROBO-BRADLEY DOES NOT COMPUTE POST-GOAL EMOTION. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Last week’s loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres inflicted more psychological damage than anything else. The Washington Capitals have been adjusting line combinations and trying chemistry experiments ever since. Like a gauntlet thrown down, tonight’s game challenged the Capitals to play a complete hour of hockey for the first time in a while. Not quite there yet, guys.
On a 5-on-3 power play, Alex Semin set up Nicky Backstrom for a backdoor knock-in. Matt Bradley followed that up by converting an excellent pass from Jason Chimera. That same line hooked up for the third goal, again facilitated by Chimera, but put in net by a well-timed shot from David Steckel. For a while it looked like Ryan Miller had been defeated, but the Sabres recovered with a two-goal burst in the second period sponsored by Derek Roy and Jordan Leopold. Goalie Michal Neuvirth reasserted himself in third period, turning away all ten attempts. With the Buffalo net abandoned, Alex Semin launched an ICBM from the Caps zone to punctuate it. Caps beat Sabres 4-2.
Sigh. Thomas Vanek scores the OTGWG. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)
Without Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres are not really daunting foes. The well-haired goalie had been convalescing with a hip injury for the last handful of games and returned to the Washington Capitals’ distinct displeasure. But with a stiff upper lip, the Caps entered the fray in nigh-Canada. Sort of.
Karl Alzner opened the game with a laser through traffic that found a wide swathe of net behind Ryan Miller. The second period was an unbridled embarrassment. The Sabres scored twice (a well-screened bomb by Montador and a fluke by Vanek). For their part the Capitals simply refused to play offense of any kind, offering only four shots across the middle frame. To qualify that, Jason Chimera spent four minutes in the box for a cross check that might have been overblown a bit, and Tomas Fleischmann also caught a double minor for a freak high sticking that carried no aggression.
Nicklas Backstrom allowed 7 minutes to escape the third period before equalizing with a high swat. Ten minutes later, a suspicious high sticking call earned Backy a double minor (the Caps’ third of the game). The Capitals survived another backbreaking penalty kill all the way into overtime. Things look liked they were headed towards the shootout until Thomas Vanek suckered Carlson and Holtby in sequence to score a sharp-looking OTGWG. Bummer, I know, but at least the Caps take a point home. Sabres beat Caps 3-2 (OT).
Alex Semin’s raspberry of hatful determination. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)
You know that video game where you fight Dr. Wily, and you think you’ve got him beat, but then he gets some kind of high-tech armor with lasers and rockets and WiFi and megagigabytes. Turns out Wily is way harder when he’s all upgraded. Well, here comes the Tampa Bay Cyber-Lightning, Mark II. Our southeast conference rivals gave the Washington Capitals a hard time last year, and they only got better over the summer.
The Capitals, led by curio Alex Semin, had a slow start. As if predestined, they surrendered the first goal of the night to Tampa’s Teddy Purcell. Tom Poti and Mike Knuble each notched goals in the second. The third period found Ryan Malone tying the game on the power play, almost taunting the Capitals to step it up. And step it up they did. Alex Semin recorded back-to-back goals with matching assists from line partners Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. Steven Stamkos returned fire with a frighteningly smart goal, but Ovechkin would strike soon after. An empty net goal in the final half minute earned Semin the hat trick and finalized the question. A crushing win by the home team, their sixth in a row: Caps beat Bolts 6-3.
Brooks Laich with the book-end goals. (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II)
Well, that was an ugly one. The Washington Capitals’ first appointment with the New York Rangers, hosted in the majestically gloomy Madison Square Garden, had all of the poetry of an alleyway brawl. 28 penalty minutes were distributed in the first period alone. Mike Green dropped gloves for crying out loud!
The Rangers got up to an early lead when Brian Boyle beat Jeff Schultz at the circle. All night the Capitals defense was spotty, and it seemed the Superfriends could not make up for it. Every time the Caps tied the score, the Rangers pulled ahead again. But the Caps found strength where we faithful knew it would be: depth. Brooks Laich recorded a pair, Mike Knuble finished the funk, Matt Hendricks provided the GWG, and even lovable John Erskine got on the board. Henrik Lundqvist lay defeated. Caps beat Rangers 5-3.
Have any of you ever wanted to watch some of your favorite NHL players sweat it out on camera? Well if you have, then this “This or That” segment produced by Caps365 is for you. Almost the entire Caps roster is asked a simple question: Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson? However, for some, this becomes a question of: Does dominance on the playing field trump who you are as a person?
The responses are hilarious. A few of the guys respond in complete defiance (Varly), some blush (Alzner) and some respond in uncomfortable laughter (Laich).
So who would you choose: Tiger or Phil? Whose answer did you like the best? And what is John Erskine so happy about?
Readers of the blog know I put a lot of stock into numbers to help put context around which players are performing and which aren’t. Corsi is one of my favorites because it is a good proxy for territorial possession in a game. To get a player’s Corsi rating, simply add up all the goals, shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots of that player- both for and against- when he is on the ice. If it is positive, that player helps create scoring chances, and if it is negative – well, the opposite happens. Or, simply go to Behind the Net, and let them do the work for you.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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