26 Days Out: The Maple Leafs are a Laugh Riot

angry nonis

The Toronto Maple Leafs, the most storied team in the NHL, had failed to make the playoffs in seven straight seasons until 2013. There was something magic in that lockout-shortened, 48-game season that allowed a team ranked second-to-DFL in puck possession to make the postseason.

And what a postseason it was. The Leafs took a commanding lead over the Boston Bruins in game seven before blowing it, freaking epically, in the final ten minutes of regulation. Patrice Bergeron won it for the Bruins in overtime, and Leafs management promptly began its offseason ritual of ruining the team.

They bought out the plucky Mikhail Grabovski, re-upped the derpy Tyler Bozak to a five-year deal, secured David Clarkson until he turns 37, and poisoned the well with Nazem Kadri. Given they probably won’t score a goal on every ninth shot next year, I suspect the Leafs are due for a reckoning in ’13-’14. Meanwhile, the Caps picked up Grabo from free agency and are actually planning on using him to play hockey in the offensive zone at some point.

Thanks for the lulz, Dave Nonis. Keep up the good work, Randy Carlyle. Never change, Toronto. See you at Thanksgiving *(U.S. edition).

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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Graig Abel

Photo credit: Graig Abel

Remember how we were whining about losing that game in Ottawa? How it wasn’t fair? How we were skeptical that lady luck would ever swing the Washington Capitals’ way?

Not tonight. The Caps’ loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t an artifact of luck, but rather the sadly predictable result of a penalty parade.

Mike Ribeiro hit up Joel Ward on the weak side for an easy opening goal. JVR tied it up with a rebound goal during a super-sized power play for the Leafs.  Alex Ovechkin recorded a PPG with a nasty wrister to restore Washington’s lead. Then the Capitals killed off a eleventy billion penalties. The Leafs tied it up in the third when Nikolai Kulemin ate snow to knock home a loose puck behind Neuvy. The Leafs stole the lead with a Matt Frattin net-crash halfway into the third.

Leafs beat Caps 3-2.

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Tuesday Night Hockey Did Not Go Well For the Caps

Photo credit: Bill Wippert

The Caps wasted a chance to climb the standings with Monday night’s loss to the Lightning, but we held out hope that our rivals– Buffalo (9th place), Ottawa (7th), and Florida (3rd)– would have crummy nights on Tuesday.

That did not happen.

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Caps beat Leafs 2-0, Time to Hit the Road

Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster

Sitting just one point behind the division-leading Florida Panthers, Sunday afternoon’s duel between the Washington Capitals and Toronto was a tremendous opportunity to climb the east.

Brooks Laich scored a shorthanded goal (just the team’s third and first by any player not named Chimera) to get on the board first. Mathieu Perreault caught a rebound off Alex Semin’s drive to make it 2-0. Caps beat Leafs.

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Keith Aucoin goal

Photo credit: Graig Abel

Saturday night, during the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, future AHL hall-of-famer Keith Aucoin scored his first NHL goal of the season, and his first since October 24, 2009. For those who are counting, that’s 854 days.

“It’s been about two years now, I think, since I last scored a goal,” Aucoin said with a smile to The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno. “It’s only been 10, 11 games, but it feels like forever, and it was nice to finally get one and help the team win.”

General Manager George McPhee, clearly unimpressed by his feat (or more likely saving cap space ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline), sent Aucoin back down to Hershey early this morning.

Coiner’s goal was so pretty, it deserves a closer look. Let’s set the scene. After going down 2-0 to the Caps within the first five minutes and then 3-0 by the second period, the Leafs were left scrambling to climb out of a hole. The play starts at 5:13, with the Caps in possession of the puck in their own zone.

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A Good Weekend: Caps beat Leafs 4-2

Photo credit: Graig Abel

Not a bad way to go out. The Washington Capitals’ domination of the Toronto Maple Leafs was likely the last we’ll see from this version of the team. Knowing this, the Caps busted out all their greatest hits from the last few years. Let’s review!

Marcus Johansson wrapped around Reimer’s net for an unchallenged goal in the first minute. Alex Semin fought off Luke Schenn and scored five-hole. Jeff Halpern took two whacks and hit top shelf. Keith Aucoin finished a bang-bang sequence from Johansson and Ovechkin to make it 4-0.

Colby Armstrong cracked the shutout with a wristshot early in the third period. Tim Connolly got a greasy one on a power play to make it interesting, but they ran out of time. Caps beat Leafs 4-2.

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Scoring Change Steals Dennis Wideman’s Hat Trick

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

When we went to bed on Friday, Dennis Wideman was the possessor of a hat trick. His three-goal night versus Toronto was the first by a defenseman for the Caps in a decade, the first overall by the Caps this season, and the first of Dennis’ career. It was also the first 3 PPG game among defensemen in the NHL since 2006.

No more.

This morning, the NHL updated the game’s scoring (via WaPo’s Katie Carrera), giving that final power play goal to Brooks Laich for his 7th on the season. Nick Backstrom loses his secondary assist, knocking him down to 31 points.

Wideman still takes from the night four power play points (2G, 2A) and the first multi-goal game of his career, but all those hats you threw on the ice are now a fraud. And he’s still minus-1 on the night. Dennis admitted as much on Friday night, but you should still blame it all on stupid old Brooksy.

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Video: David Steckel on How Not to Win a [bleeping] Game

Capitals crowd react to goal

The crowd reacts to Dennis Wideman’s first PPG of the night. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

The Washington Capitals converted four of six power play opportunities on Friday night to best the Toronto Maple Leafs. The win pushes the Caps solidly into 8th place in the east and bounces their overall PP% up to 18.1%, good for 12th in the league. There’s a lot to be happy about, but Former-Cap/Current-Leaf David Steckel isn’t feeling warm and fuzzy about any of it.

In his post-game interview, Steckel scoured his team’s performance on the penalty kill with some salty language: “Any time you give up four power play goals, you’re not going to win a [expletive] game.”

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Caps beat Leafs 4-2, Dennis Wideman Gets a Hat Trick!

Bruce Bennett

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

Dale Hunter recorded the first two wins of his NHL career against Canadian teams. After tonight’s date between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, you can make it three.

Dennis Wideman caught Mike Knuble’s pass and converted the PP. Dennis Wideman threaded the needle and converted the PP. (Phil Kessel scored.) Dennis Wideman fed Nick Backstrom, who converted the PP. (From the blue line, Cody Franson slipped one past a screened Vokoun.) Dennis Wideman converted the PP. Caps beat Leafs 4-2.

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