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Early Morning Skate: So, the last time we were here, we were there. Filthy Philadelphia, needing a solid road win, and feeling optimistic to start. In fact, we were all, like, yay here we gowhattheflipwasthat?! and c’mon Holtbeast get it together and then yay Groooouuubsie and boooo Max Talbot grrr grrrr and ow that traffic-cone orange makes my soul weep and that was pretty much the best summary of that ugly mess of a game I can imagine.

Mmmm...tastes like Cheez Whiz

Mmmm…tastes like Cheez Whiz

What exactly was it that happened that terrible, cold February night at the F-U Center? Where, exactly, were manimal Troy Brouwer and Captain 8 (despite being probably the best in Red on the ice that night) and John “Towelie” Carlson and the Millionaire and his wife and the nameless rest? Certainly not there to play hard, or at least battle back through a tough start. And why was it, exactly, the Lord Supreme in His wisdom didst create that dung-heap of a burg to begin with?

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

You see, I’d like to chalk up that bumbling bungle of a game simply to our visiting the giant spirit suck that is Philly and its moronic fans. Like to, but cannot. Yeah, there were a couple fluky puck bounces and what-not, but those things give as much as they take. No, what we saw was a failure to launch by the Capitals after a dis-spiriting start. It was not, in any possible permutation of the concept, ‘good.’

The Puck Drop: But it’s Spring, and Easter (for some) or Maru (for others) or Passover or Nowruz or we’re just going to stop this now. Traditionally, it’s a time for rebirth and renewal and rejuvenation and reloading and all that. For the Capitals’ flock, it’s once more the race to the playoffs.

For several years now, the Capitals have demonstrated fine mettle in April, much like the pale gossamer jonquils besotting the landscape, if those jonquils were angry, snarling, forechecking, glass-smashing monsters made of steel and laser beams.

In short, there’s two ways this ends. One: we leave Filthydelphia redolent of Whiz, covered in soot and chagrin; or two, you can eat me Peter Laviolette. No wait, that’s a given. Oh yes; or two, we bounce outta Barftown and kick it into grinder gear for the coming match-ups against the Canes and ugly Islanders (revenge want now) and be the team that showed up to rub Winnipeg’s nose in its own dark, dark shame. I know which one I’m hoping for.

So let’s git ‘er done.

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Free Agency Flustercluck Open Thread

Here’s where all the action happens. Lots of things cooking today.

Japers’ has a great primer on who in the Caps system is up for grabs: Arnott, Sturm, Hannan, Gordon, Brouwer, Bradley, Alzner, Varlamov.

We’ll update this post with each development relevant to the Caps, and you can share your panic-struck ravings in the comments.

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Michal Neuvirth and Karl Alzner celebrate after the Capitals 1-0 shutout of the Penguins

Karl Alzner congratulates Michal Neuvirth on his third shutout of the year and second straight blanking of the Penguins. (Photo credit: Gregory Shamus)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates his second period goal, his fifth powerplay goal of the year. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

Alex Ovechkin celebrates his second period goal, his fifth power play marker of the year. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

After besting the Sabres on Sunday, the Capitals took the 178 mile journey down to Pittsburgh to take on a depleted Penguins team. Much was up for the taking Monday night. With a win versus the Pens, the Caps could go finish their pivotal 5-game road trip above .500, move within a point of the Lightning for the Southeast lead and take the season series with Pittsburgh. But despite their injuries, the Penguins remained no slouch. Added with the motivation of playing a Washington team that defeated them on Feb. 6 and in the Winter Classic, the Capitals couldn’t take the Penguins for granted. And they didn’t.

The first period, though scoreless, was certainly energetic. Both teams weren’t afraid to mix it up and play physical as the goalies shut things down. The Caps may have been outshot 18-7 for the frame but they were not without opportunities, including an Alex Ovechkin breakaway chance where the Great Eight was stoned by Marc-Andre Flurey.

The fireworks really began in the second period when Matt Bradley delivered a huge hit on Capitals fan favorite Matt Cooke, receiving a charging penalty in the process. The Pens Jordan Staal proceeded to tackle Bradley to the ice as a scrum formed. Ryan Craig would ask Bradley to answer for the hit when the two dropped the gloves at 11:26 but Craig ended up getting the worst of Bradley’s fists. Shouldn’t Cooke be fighting his own battles? I don’t think I have to answer that one.

While on the power play at 16:38 in the frame, Marcus Johansson fed the puck to a waiting Alex Ovechkin. Ovi then unleashed an unreal, laser beam of a one-timer. BOOM! Caps: 1, Pens: 0

And that would be it. Pittsburgh put 14 shots on Washington netminder Michal Neuvirth in the third period but Neuvy remained as solid as a brick wall. Shutout. World Peace. Something funny here. Caps beat Penguins, 1-0.

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