Please, Gnome More: Leafs beat Caps 3-2

patrick mcdermott

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

I wrote on our mission statement that hockey should be as fun to read about as it is to watch. So what happens when hockey– Caps hockey at least– becomes a chore? Tuesday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals was another messy loss, and gnome amount of puns will cheer us up right now.

The Leafs scored first, JVR seizing upon a communication breakdown between Neuvirth and Poti behind the Caps net. JVR struck again after Washington’s defense temporarily lost motor function. Marcus Johansson got his first of the year late in the first after Tomas Kundratek gave him a nice feed at the back door. Korbinan Holzer got his first NHL goal with a tricky long bomb. Mike Ribeiro executed a nice zone entry and passing sequence by sinking a powerplay goal, but the Leafs emerged victorious.

Leafs beat Caps 3-2.

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Holtby gives up a goal 7-hole

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

In the far corner of the room, Braden Holtby sat at his locker and stared at the ground. As the rest of the team spoke to the media, Holtby remained there, stoic and still in full gear. He didn’t look up. Finally, fellow goaltender Michal Neuvirth came over and gave him a tap on the pads. After a few minutes, Holtby got up and walked out of the room.

The Caps had just been smacked by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Holtby gave up six goals on 26 shots. At one point in the game, it was five goals on 14 shots. After coming into the season as the team’s tentative starting netminder, he has a save percentage of just .862. His goals against average is 4.52. Nothing, it seems, is going right for the 23-year-old from Saskatchewan.

“There’s been better days,” Holtby told reporters after he reentered the locker room. “The puck seemed to go in again tonight. I feel like I’m doing some right things and obviously a couple things I’d like to change but just one of those nights.”

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salute

The Capitals are 1-4-1.  They’re in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, 7 standings points behind the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’m not panicking.

Despite how desperate the standings look, the Capitals are actually playing darn good hockey right now according to their underlying numbers. Let’s take a look at those together and then have a warm glass of milk.

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Okay, NOW Hockey is Back: Caps beat Sabres 3-2

patrick mcdermott

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Although hockey has been back for over a week now, the lockout seemed longer to the Washington Capitals and their fans. Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres put a definitive end to that. The Caps were poised, aggressive, and — most importantly– victorious for the first time this season.

And oh yeah, Ovi scored.

John Carlson allowed a bad breakaway that became a goal for Tyler Ennis, but Joel Ward occupied the slot a few minutes later to restore the tie. John Erskine scored a sneaky goal from outside to give the Caps their first lead since the season home opener vs. Winnipeg. Then, Alex Ovechkin scored a glorious powerplay goal with a one-timer that went top shelf on Ryan Miller. Marcus Foligno got one back for Buffalo, feeding at Neuvirth’s trough to make it 3-2.

Caps beat Sabres 3-2!

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Olie Kolzig

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth recently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.

On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.

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Michal Neuvirth holds up his new mask that has Olie Kolzig painted on the side

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Over the summer, Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson released photos of the new goalie mask he painted for Michal Neuvirth. It was a thing of beauty and something all Capitals fans could appreciate.

One side of the mask features images of Neuvirth’s hometown along with a portrait image of Czech goaltending great Jiří Holeček. On the other side there’s an action shot of Olie Kolzig, the franchise’s leader in wins, juxtaposed with the old Capitals dome logo and stars.

The gesture was not lost on Kolzig, now an associate goaltending coach for the Capitals and technically one of Neuvirth’s coaches.

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Mike Green Bulls Over Michal Neuvirth, Goes Upside Down

Mike Green Michal Neuvirth-9906

Photos by Chris Gordon

Caps training camp may not be officially underway yet, but almost all the players are now taking part in self-led practices at Kettler Capitals Iceplex (the team can’t hold formal workouts until the CBA terms are finalized). Without coaches leading the drills, these sessions haven’t been particularly riveting. Still, hundreds of fans filed into the rooftop rink to get a glimpse of world-class NHL hockey for the first time in months.

Speaking of world-class NHL hockey, the highlight of the day came when Mike Green got too close to Michal Neuvirth before bulling over the young netminder. Green then got lodged in the net upside down. Man, it’s good to be back.

“I had Lasik eye surgery yesterday so my vision’s a little off,” Green told reporters after the practice. “I didn’t realize he was that close to me. I apologize though.”

Take a look at some pictures of the incident after the jump.

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Michal Neuvirth flying back to America

Photo credit: ahaonline.cz

There are three Washington Capitals players that have yet to make an appearance at Kettler Capitals IcePlex this week: goaltender Michal Neuvirth, defenseman Roman Hamrlik, and potential top-six winger Wojtek Wolski. You can now cross Neuvirth off that list. According to The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno, Neuvy flew to Washington on Wednesday and plans on skating with his Caps teammates on Friday morning. Sorry, Brett Leonhardt. You must now vacate the ice.

Before Neuvy left for America (some time in the last six months), he took in a tennis match with his girlfriend Monika. Thanks to ahaonline.cz, you can see them not-smiling for the camera.

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Ovechkin speaks to the media

Miss the media? “Not really,” says Ovechkin. (Photo credit: @SWhyno)

This morning, a bunch of Washington Capitals players jumped back on the ice for an informal practice. Those who skated include Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, John Carlson, Michal Neuvirth, Matt Hendricks, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, Jack Hillen, and John Erskine.

At 11am, Caps general manager George McPhee then spoke to the press for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth. GMGM revealed that injured defenseman Dmitry Orlov is “improving” but questionable for opening night (but you already knew that), and side-stepped questions on Nicklas Backstrom’s health, acknowledging that the team can’t examine him until a new CBA is ratified. Hershey Bears defense prospect Cameron Schilling will also be given a shot to make the team out of training camp. McPhee’s full comments are below.

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Capitals Players React to NHL Lockout Ending on Twitter

John Carlson

John Carlson’s hair at the Redskins game. (Via @DCSportsBog)

At 5:45 on Sunday morning, we learned that the NHL and NHLPA had reached an agreement on a new collective-bargaining agreement. Washington Capitals players took to Twitter, and yes, they were happy.

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