Thursday, December 28, 2006

Canadiens 4 - Capitals 1: Brought to You By the Number...


Power play opportunities the Capitals had. They squandered seven of those chances. Granted, scoring on 12.5% of your power play chances on a team that has been 88.3% effective in killing penalties is pretty good. Unfortunately, the Caps were well below their season power play effectiveness of 17.2%. Granted, the differences between 12.5% effective and 17.2% effective is a scant .376 goals, but when a team that averages 5.69 times shorthanded a game gives you 8 power play opportunites, a team must take advantage of it.

The Capitals did not. Indeed, they only got one power play goal (courtesy of Alexander Semin with 2:56 left in the third and Washington trailing by 2 still) on a mere 7 shots. While the Caps did outshoot the Habs 31-27 (Kolzig only had a 85.2% save percentage vs. Huet's 96.8%), their power play was unable to generate the chances they needed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Capitals (16-13-7) vs. Canadiens (21-9-5) Keys to the Game

Okay and welcome back from Christmas holiday.

#1: First Period Lead is Crucial
The Capitals have only a .091 winning percentage when trailing after the first period and a .083 win percentage when trailing after 2. By contrast, Montreal has a .727 winning percentage when leading after 1 period. It's lucky then that the Caps are third in the league in 1st period goals (40) and Montreal is only 14th in goals allowed in the first (31)

#2: Beat Huet
Goaltender Cristobal Huet has been nothing short of spectacular of late and particularly against Washington. This season he's 14-4-3 with two shutouts and has a GAA of 2.36. In his career against Washington he's 3-1-0 with a 2.23 GAA. All this has translated into a winning record for the Habs and a team which allows the second fewest goals (97) behind only New Jersey (89). Luckily they're only 14th in goals scored with 108 while Washington is 9th with 113.

#3: Special Forces Needed
Washington isn't bad when it comes to the special teams aspect of hockey. They're ranked 14th in power play percent (17.4) and 19th in penalty kill (81.7). The problem is that Montreal is ranked #1 and #2 in power play percentage and penalty kill percentage, respectively. Montreal kills a devastating 88.3% of their penalties (they're ranked 15th in times shorthanded with 197) and is a stunning 23.5% effective on the power play.

Players to Watch...
Montreal: Christobal Huet
For all the reasons stated above, Christobal Huet is the most dangerous person in a Canadiens uniform tonight and is the one player who can put Washington on the road to a 2 game losing streak. It also doesn't hurt that he leads the league in save percentage (93.1%) and is one of only 15 goaltenders with multiple shutouts.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin
One night after surviving the boo-birds in Buffalo (he responded in kind with a goal) he looks to build another goal scoring streak (he's already got goals in 2 straight games). Ovechkin is the league's leading goal scorer with 25 goals and is currently on pace for a whopping 57 goals and 109 points.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Capitals (15-10-7) vs. Lightning (14-17-2) Keys to the Game...

#1: Shoot on Denis
Tampa goaltending has been a glaring weakness for them all year. Starter Marc Denis has lost 10 of his last 11 starts and is 6-11-2 this year. His stats have been less than stellar: a 3.13 GAA and 87.8% save percentage. Against Washington, his numbers are worse (3.63 GAA; 88.7% save percentage). Remember that most of those games came when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But this year, as an in-division foe, Denis has 1 win and a 3.61 GAA to go along with an 87.2% save percentage.

#2: Make it a Defensive Struggle for TB
Looking at the two games in which the Caps and Lightning have squared off, it's been an offensive battle both times. Tampa won the first game 6-4 and Washington won the second 5-2. Thats 17 goals combined in three games (8.5 goals scored per game). Both teams have high ranking offenses (Caps ranked 7th in the league averaging 3.19 goals for per game; Tampa ranked 8th averaging 3.12 goals for per game) and horrid defenses (Tampa ranked 22nd in the league with 3.21 goals against/game, Washington 23rd with 3.22 goals against/game). If Washington can keep Tampa off the board they will be in great position to win the game. Oh, and limiting Tampa to under 40 shots would help out Olie Kolzig (the 'Ning averages 42.5 shots against Olie this year).

#3: Second Period Lead is HUGE!
Washington continues to be suspect to late game collapses. Their win percentage difference when they lead in the second intermission to when they lead in the first is 176 percentage points (.864 compared to .688). By comparison, Tampa is abysmal not only when trailing after two, but when trailing after one! When behind after one period, Tampa Bay only wins .267 percent of their games, same as when they trail after the second. So going into the third with a lead (hopefully, a commanding lead as they did in their last game against the Lightning) will be critical.

Players to Watch...
Tampa Bay: Martin St. Louis
St. Louis is tied with Ovechkin and Jason Spezza for 4th on the points leaderboard (43 points). In his career, St. Louis has bloomed in recent years, and has become a perennial Cap-killer. No one will forget his overtime goal on Easter Sunday in 2003 that ended the Capitals playoff run (in the first round, 4-2). St. Louis has 9 goals and 22 points in his 30 game career against Washington, but has been hot of late, with 3 goals in his last 3 games. Can he lead the Lightning out of their losing streak against DC?
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
In an offensive struggle, there's no one Caps fans would rather have on the ice than Ovie. As mentioned, Ovechkin is 4th in the NHL with 43 points, but he also leads the league in goals with 22 (tied with Hossa and Shanahan). He does have 7 goals and 13 points in 10 games against Tampa, but the most staggering statistics are the ones he's put up recently. 13 multi-point games, points in 25 of 31 games (including 10 of last 11). Not to mention in his 7 game scoring streak he's amounted 6 goals and 16 points. Will he keep his scoring streak alive?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Capitals (15-10-7) Power Rankings for December 18 ranks the Caps at #15 (up from #16 last week)

With one regulation loss in the last nine games, the Caps are climbing and
captain Chris Clark is one of those in the lesser-known supporting cast that has
elevated his game, putting up 26 points in 30 games.
Key Injuries: D Jamie Heward (face), RW Richard Zednik (groin). ranks the Caps at #9 (up from $14 last week)
While Alexander Ovechkin continues to tear things up for the Capitals (he has
six goals and 10 assists in his last seven games), that other Alex (Alexander
) is also helping Washington win games. The result: the Caps are 7-2-1 in
their last 10 games.
The Hockey News ranks Washington at #10

Average Ranking: #11

From Something to Bring to Your Attention

Quoted from Bettmanhateshockey blog:

Attention all Caps fans who will be at the game on Friday against the Devils: the plan is afoot for as many fans as possible to wear some sort of mirrored sunglasses or visor to taunt Marty Brodeur. For those of you who are unawares, Marty is the goalie that complained not being about Alexander Ovechkin's mirrored visor, because Marty claimed he couldn't see Ovechkin's eyes. Never mind the fact that a goalie shouldn't be looking at the player's eyes. The competition committee (of which Brodeur is a member of) recommended the rule change, and the NHL's GMs voted for banning the visor by a vote of 29-1. The lone dissenting vote? Caps' General Manager George McPhee

Pick up a cheap pair of sunglasses at the local dollar store and bring them to the game on Friday. Tell all your friends as well. And fellow bloggers? Help spread the word.

AFTERNOON EDIT: We're now accepting absentee donations to help pay for
additional shades. Anyone wanting to donate money via
Paypal, can do so by
sending money to . We'll be accepting donations until
11:30 AM tomorrow.
Please chip in!

Yes it's chaim letterish and I am a Broduer fan, but we've got to support our home hero!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Capitals 4 - Flyers 1: Brought to You by the Number...


Shots allowed by the Capitals defense last night. In a stifling performance, Olie Kolzig got a night off, only having to make 21 saves. The Flyers only got double-digit shots in one period, the first, and were held to 12 combined shots in the second and third periods. On the season, Washington usually averaged 12 shots against per period.

By giving up only 22 shots last night, Washington's shots per game has decreased .7 shots per game (from 36.0 to 35.3) but are still the worst in the league. Washington has a .600 win percentage when outshooting their opponents.

Note: with his goal last night, Alex Ovechkin now has 22 on the year and is tied for the league lead in goals. He is tied for third in the league in points with 43 (Sidney Crosby has 52 and Jaromir Jagr has 46).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Capitals (14-10-7) vs. Flyers (8-19-4) Keys to the Game:

#1: Keep the Flyers Out of the Net
The Flyers are 5th worst in the league in goals scored per game (2.42) while the Caps are 6th worst in goals allowed per game (3.29). The Caps continue to give up more shots than anyone, but Philadelphia is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to shots per game (28.8). Still, if the Caps can limit the Flyers in scoring chances, it will help their chances.

#2: Second Period is Crucial
The Caps give up most of their goals in the latter stages of the game. They have given up above 35 goals in both the second and third periods. The Flyers, on the other hand are second worst in the league in terms of goals scored in the second period (21). If the Caps can build a lead going into the third, they have a great chance of winning.

#3: Forsberg Returns
The Flyers are 0-6-3 in games in which Peter Forsberg doesn't play. His return to the line-up (which is still doubtful) could turn his team's fortunes around.

Players to Watch
Philadelphia: Peter Forsberg
As mentioned above, the Flyers have been horrid without Forsberg. His return to the lineup can give Philly an offensive boost. The question is not only if he will return, but how effective will he be in returning from his injury.
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin scored a hat trick last night against Atlanta (the second of his career). But fans must wonder how he will fare against Philly after a huge offensive game. In his career against Philly, he has 6 goals and 10 points.

Capitals 3 - Thrashers 2 (OT): Brought to You by the Number...


As in Alexander the Great's number! Let's face it, when names you as the #1 star of the night and your hat trick goal was the overtime game-winning goal, you've had a good night. When you score all the goals and are now second on the NHL's goal leaderboard, you're the reason your team won. Ovie is the face of the franchise, and last night he put them on his back and carried them past Atlanta, one of the best teams in the East.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Capitals Player of the Week: December 14

Chris Clark

In three games, Clark has recorded 3 goals and 2 assists. Two of those goals came in a hearbreaking loss to Pittsburgh and the other against Philadelphia in a win. On the season, Clark has 12 goals and 25 points in 28 games (tied for the second highest point total in his career).

Honorable Mentions:
Alex Ovechkin: 1 goal; 5 assists
Brooks Laich: 2 goals
Dainus Zubrus: 3 assists

Capitals (13-10-7) @ Atlanta (18-9-5) Keys to the Game

#1: No More Late Collapses
Something the Caps need to work on, which killed them against Pittsburgh, is their tendency to fade off later into the game. The Capitals goal differential for the second and third periods is -16. They rank 5th worst in the league in goals against for the second period (38) and 6th worst for GA in the third (36). Most of their goals are scored in the first period, but the Caps need to work on holding onto the lead late into the game. That might be hard because Atlanta is 3rd in the league for goals scored in the third period with 40.

#2: No More Shootouts
They lost to Fittsburgh in the shootout, which has become the norm for them. The Caps haven't won in the shootout. They've only scored one goal, tied with Carolina for last in the NHL (but the Canes have only been in 2 shootouts). Some disheartening statistics for the Caps are that they are worst in the league in shooting percentage (7.7%) and save percentage (33.3%) in the shootout. If the game goes to OT, the Caps better pull out all the stops to win it there.

#3: Limit the Shots
I probably sound like a broken record, but the Caps still give up more shots than anyone (36 per game). Glen Hanlon's approach to limit the number of shots to under 10 per period is a good one, but the Caps just cannot execute. This discrepancy just highlights the Capital's defensive weakness.

Players to Watch...
Atlanta: Marian Hossa
The leagues leading goal scorer (22) has had some great success against the Capitals in his career. Hossa has scored 21 goals and 43 points in 34 career games against Washington. He has been slumping as of late, only scoring 1 goal in his last three games. The question is will he have a huge game, or continue his woes?
Washington: Olie Kolzig
Kolzig is likely to start against Atlanta and Johnson against Philly tomorrow night. After surrendering 4 goals in the second half of the game against Pittsburgh, will he stand up to the task of facing Atlanta's barrage. He is 12-10-4-2 overall against Atlanta with a 2.72 GAA and a 90.6% save percentage in his career against the Trash. But in three games this year, he is 0-2-1 with a 3.96 GAA and an 87.6% sv. pct.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Capitals (13-10-6) vs. Penguins (12-11-5) Keys to the Game

#1: A Fleury of Shots
The Caps need to get shots on Pittsburgh's young and still spastic goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has a GAA of 2.91 (25th in the league) and a save percentage of .905 (23rd in the league). This is probably due to the fact that Fleury has faced the 9th most shots of any goaltender in the league (Olie Kolzig, of course, has faced the third most), but also has allowed the 8th most goals (Kolzig has allowed the 10th most). It doesn't hurt either that Pittsburgh allows 31.6 shots against per game (25th in the league).

#2: Watch "Set-Up" Sid
Sidney Crosby can hurt the Caps by setting up his fellow players, particularly Evgeni Malkin (14 goals leads the team). It doesn't hurt that Crosby is second in goals with 13. Beyond those two, however, are two 22 point players (Gonchar and Recchi), but no other 10 goal scorers. By contrast, the Caps have five players with 10 or more goals and 4 players with 20+ points. The fact that the Caps scoring is spread out while Pittsburgh's is concentrated on a few players could help Washington.

#3: Dominate the Faceoff Circle
Nothing more needs to be said about Pittsburgh than that their faceoff percentage is 46.8%, worst in the league. The Caps aren't much better, winning 48.4% of faceoffs, but controlling the start of play, particularly in the offensive zone, could help them create scoring chances against the defensively hapless Penguins. Once again, it comes down to Crosby and one other guy. Both he and Dominic Moore are above 50% in the faceoff circle, but the other two lines are centered by terrible guys to take the draw. Washington's best chance is to square those two lines off against their grinding lines, who also happen to have their best faceoff winners: Boyd Gordon (52%) and Kris Beech (51.5%)

Players to Watch For...
Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby
If you haven't been paying attention throughout this preview, Sidney Crosby is the Pittsburgh Penguins. He leads the team in assists (26) points (39), and +/- (+9). He's also second (to Evgeni Malkin) in a bevy of other stats (goals, power play goals, shooting percentage). Stopping Sid will stop the Penguins. Can he face the DC crowd and come away with a victory for the Pens?
Washington: Alex Ovechkin
The rivalry is getting so much hype I just had to address it. Ovie is the snake to Crosby's mongoose (or the mongoose to his snake, I don't know animals). He leads his team with 18 goals, 17 assists, 35 points, 7 power play goals (tied with Alexander Semin), 4 game winning goals, and 152 shots. One might think that just as stopping Crosby stop the Pens, stopping Ovechkin stops the Caps. Pittsburgh did that last year when they held him to 6 points in 4 games vs. Crosby's 9. The question is, can Ovechkin lead the Caps to triumph over Pittsburgh who they went 1-3-0 against last year?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Capitals 5 - Philadelphia 3: Brought to You By the Number


Even strength goals by Washington. Overall, the Caps played a wonderful game against Philadelphia and won both their games in Philadelphia for the first time in years. The Caps also added a power play goal (courtesy of Matt Pettinger) and a shorthanded goal (ala Brooks Laich).

The three even strength goals are important for Washington because Philadelphia has given up the most even strength goals (75) of any team in the league.

And it didn't hurt that the Capitals scored first. They won four consecutive games before Friday's loss to the Ducks. In those four games, they scored first. Against Anaheim, they gave up the first goal. When scoring first, Washington has only lost twice in regulation.

Former Cap Peter Bondra Has Signed with Chicago

Terms were not disclosed. Bondra has 498 goals and 878 points in 1,044 career games. 15 seasons with the Capitals before being traded to Ottawa.

Many have criticized Bondra for not resigning with the Caps last year, but going to division rival Atlanta. I've heard rumors that Bondra was hoping to come back to Washington, but the team wouldn't match Atlanta's offer. Now, this offseason, I've heard the Caps wouldn't even offer Bondra a contract. He was a great player for us. I hope he can get those missing two goals in Chicago.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Capitals (12-10-6) @ Philadelphia (8-16-4) Keys to the Game

#1: Shut Down Gagne
With no Peter Forsberg in the lineup, Simon Gagne is the Flyers biggest scoring threat. Gagne has 22 points and 14 goals in 28 games. Their next highest scorer is Mike Knuble, who has 18 points in 22 games. Peter Forsberg has, admittedly, been struggling with 16 points in 22 games. Three Caps equal or outscore Gagne, Ovechkin (32 points), Semin (23 points) and Zubrus (22 points). Stopping Gagne could shut down the Flyers offense.

#2: Take a First Period Lead and Hold it through the Second
The Flyers have only have a .091 win percentage when the trail after the first period. When they lead, they have a .625 win percentage. The Caps win .692 percent of the games when they lead after one period, and .909 percent of the games when the lead after the second. It doesn't hurt that the Flyers have NEVER won a game when they are trailing after the second. Taking a lead into the third will be huge for the Caps.

#3: Think Offensively
Plain and simply, the Flyers allow 3.64 goals per game, the most of any NHL team. The Caps average 3.07 goals per game, 9th in the lead. If the Caps can be effective on the power play (they are 17th in the league with a 16.3% efficiency), then they can take it to the Flyers.

Players to Watch for...
Philadelphia: Simon Gagne
As I said before, Gagne is the teams leading scorer and has been their only efficient scorer over the year. While Knuble and Geoff Sanderson (17 points) have contributed, Gagne carries most of the offensive load for the Flyers.

Washington: Alexander Ovechkin
If Philly has one advantage over Washington, it is their 9th ranked Penalty Kill. Ovechkin and Alexander Semin are tied for the team lead with 7 power play goals. Ovechkin has had 4 asssists in the last two games and it is about time for him to bust out with a goal. Getting one on the power play could boost his confidence and give the Caps a ton of momentum.

A debate for the ages: Ovechkin vs. Crosby

By Robert Picarello, NHL Correspondent

Just the way hockey fans from the 1980s still argue today over who was
better, Wayne Gretzky or
Mario Lemieux, years from now, the same debate will center around Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

The two current super sophs came into the league last season and more than lived up to the hype, entertaining fans around the league with their eye-popping moves and highlight-reel goals. While Crosby was all but handed Rookie of the Year honors before the 2005-06 season even started, Ovechkin was the one who captured the Calder Trophy last June in Vancouver at the NHL's Award Show.

Looking back, the race wasn't even close, as Ovechkin virtually ran away with the award, receiving 124 of the 129 first-place votes and five second-place votes for 1,275 points, as compared to Crosby's distant 831 points.

While Crosby didn't skate away as the top rookie, he did come out on top in head-to-head play last season. The then 18-year old not only led the Penguins to a 3-1 record over Washington, he also was Pittsburgh's leading scorer against the Capitals last season, notching three goals and six assists.

Ovechkin finished the 2005-06 season with six points against the Penguins, scoring three goals and three assists in the four games.

The two will meet another four times this year, with the first matchup coming Monday night in Washington.

"I think it's always a little bit more motivating. You know, from my side I think that it's built up so much that, in a way you want to respond and make sure you have a good game," Crosby said. "But at the end of the night the win is most important. That's the way I looked at it. But there's no doubt there seems to be more emotion and intensity when we play each other."

"I think Sidney is right. It's important for us, for our team, to win the game. Of course, Sidney and me want to score goals and have some points, but it's important for us to win the game," Ovechkin said.

Next month, it looks as though the two players may be able to make magic together for the first time at the NHL's All-Star Game, which will be played on Wednesday, Jan. 24th in Dallas. As of Tuesday, Crosby and Ovechkin were among the top Eastern Conference vote-getters for the star-studded event. Crosby was first on the list with 401,365 votes and Ovechkin was in fourth with 203,138 votes after approximately 12 million votes had been cast in the all-digital voting program.

"It will be nice," Crosby said about the opportunity to play with Ovechkin for the first time. "There's always so many comparisons. But for me, I think with my game I'm more much a playmaker and I think Alex is more of a shooter. It would be great to be passing to someone like that, so I look forward to that sure for."

Ovechkin is also hoping to get the opportunity to make history together at
midseason classic.

"Me too. He's a great player I watch lots of games he plays. He just give the pass, and guys just love to shoot, you know. So I’m looking forward to playing with him."

So are the fans.

Ducks 6 - Capitals 1: Brought to You by the Number...


Goals allowed by Olie Kolzig in one of his worst performances of late. Kolzig allowed two goals early in the game on just four shots. The Caps trailed early (and trailed for the first time in their four-game win streak) and never recovered. Anaheim ended the first period with 2 goals on 7 shots.

Kolzig looked better in the second period, allowing one goal on 18 shots, but in the third he allowed three more on nine shots. One of those goals, a shorthander by Marchant, was the result of a misstep by Kolzig.

Overall, Kolzig had 34 shots in the game and only made 28 saves. That's a save percentage of 82.4%, much lower than Kolzig's year save percentage of 91.3%. By contrast, J.S. Giguere made 26 of 27 stops against the Caps (who admittedly could have had more if they had pulled the trigger more often on the PP), giving him a save percentage of 96.3%. That is slightly higher than his season average of 92.6%.

If Kolzig and Giguere had played to par with their season averages, the score would have turned out to closer, actually it would have been a 3-2 win for the Ducks. Because Kolzig's difference to the season average was greater, it was his poor play more than Gigure's great play that resulted in the Caps loss.

Friday, December 08, 2006

There's No Stopping Kolzig

Ol' buddy Tarik El-Bashir writes for the Washington Post

Washington Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon has a standard response when someone asks about Olie Kolzig: "We feel he's the best goaltender in the NHL."

This season, Hanlon isn't the only person saying it.

"You look at where Washington is at, outshot most nights, outshot badly a lot of nights, and they are within striking distance of a plaoff spot," ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose said in a telephone interview yesterday. "It's phenomenal what Kolzig has done. I'll take what he's done this year over anybody."

Kolzig has faced more shots and made more saves than any other goaltender. His standout play is a primary reason the young and inexperienced Capitals have won four consecutive games and are only one standings point out of a playoff spot entering tonight's game against the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks.

"I feel as good about my game as I ever have," Kolzig said after yesterday's practice.

Through Wednesday's schedule, Kolzig had faced 701 shots in 20 games -- a whopping 35 per contest -- but had stopped 643 of them. His .917 save percentage, which ranks 10th, is nine percentage points higher than his career average.

Consider this:
· He's 8-0-1 when facing more than 35 shots.
· He's 4-0-1 when making 40 or more saves.
· He has made an average of 37 saves in his 10 victories.

Kolzig has a sensible explanation for the counterintuitive notion of why he plays better as his workload increases.

"I'd much rather have 30-plus shots per game than 20 shots," he said. "I like being involved. You get into a flow."

His longtime position coach, Dave Prior, agrees.

"One benefit of it is that it's easy to stay in a game," Prior said. "That's the advantage of getting regular work throughout a period or throughout a game, especially when things are going bad and you have idle time to think about things. That's when you start worrying about whether you are going to make the next save."

That certainly wasn't a problem Nov. 28 at St. Pete Times Forum, where the Capitals arrived reeling from a six-game losing streak that showed no sign of ending, not with Dallas, Buffalo, Ottawa and Anaheim up next.

The Lightning peppered Kolzig with 50 shots, 24 of which came on power plays, but the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder stopped 48 of them to lift the Capitals to a 5-2 win.

"Fifty is a little extreme," Kolzig cracked.

The unlikely victory ignited the Capitals, who, in the eight days since, have knocked off the Stars, Sabres and Senators, each of whom had 100 or more points last season.

During the streak, Washington's offense has come through with 22 goals. But, as usual, Kolzig has been the key. The career Capital is 4-0-0 with a 2.75 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

"If you're not watching Olie every night, and you are just looking at statistics, and you see someone with a real micro goals against average and a lot of wins, it's not easy to respect what Olie has done," said Hanlon, a former NHL goaltender. "Every time he plays, we feel we're going to get strong NHL goaltending."

His players agree.

"He's the best in the NHL, for sure," said Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals' leading scorer. "He's 90 percent of our team. We feel like we have great goalie."

Chris Clark, the club's captain, said: "Sometimes you just feel like saying sorry to him after he's all over the ice making a save. I don't say anything because he's so focused. But in my head, I'm thinking, 'Jeez . . .' "

Interestingly, Kolzig's surge has come at an age -- he turns 37 in April -- when many professional athletes' skills begin to decline. He attributes the upturn to mental maturity.

"As you get older, you deal with things better," Kolzig said. "You don't get too nervous, you don't get too uptight, you don't get too down. You rebound quicker from bad goals and bad nights."

That's not to say that Kolzig, long renowned for his fiery temperament, isn't susceptible to the occasional stick-smashing episode. The hardwood shelf above his locker has a three-inch dent in it from where he slammed down his mask after a recent loss.

But he is, by all accounts, mellower than in previous years. And that, he said, has helped him maintain his focus, which he can't afford to lose for even a moment.

Kolzig and his coaches say the number of shots the Capitals have yielded can be misleading. They contend that the team's defensive play has improved, that the opponents' number of odd-man rushes and breakaways are down from last season, and that many of the shots come from the perimeter.

They also acknowledge the ideal number of shots would be about 30 per game.

"You don't want to give up that many shots because anything can happen, the goalie can give up a rebound," Kolzig said. "Our goal is keep the shots to about 10 every period."

Until then, it's all on Kolzig, who is glad to oblige.

Washington "is not like Anaheim, where they've got Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger out there," Melrose said. "Kolzig's got young defensemen in front of him, and young forwards in front of them. They are going to make a lot of mistakes. You look at the number of shots he sees, the types of shots he sees, and his record: Kolzig is probably playing the best he's ever played."

Capitals (12-9-6) vs. Anaheim (21-3-6) Keys to the Game:

#1: Shut Down Selanne
Teemu Selanne is one of the league's leaders in points and has been on a hot streak during Anaheim's run of six wins in their last seven days. Selanne scored twice and added an assist in Wednesday's 4-0 win over Nashville.

#2: Limit the Penalties
Anaheim is the league leader in power play percentage for the league at 22.7%. Their PP on the road is lower than their overall PP percentage (19.2%) but that's also because they get 52 power play opportunities on the road (vs. 111 at home). Unfortunately, that translates to 163 penalties overall, 7th in the league. But Washington is in the bottom 15 in the league in regards to times shorthanded overall (12th) and at home (8th).

#3: Limit the Shots Against
Once again, it's the same old tune. The Caps give up more shots (36.1) per game than anyone in the league. They gave up 37 against Ottawa on Wednesday, but Olie Kolzig was huge. Anaheim is third in the league in shots for per game (32.1). If the Caps can hold the Ducks to 11 shots or under per period, they can stay competitive.

Players to Watch For...
Anaheim: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Many may argue that Selanne, with his 16 goals and 31 points against Washington will be key, but Giguere also has great numbers versus the Caps. Giggy is 2-1-1 with 1.48 GAA all-time against Washington, and two shutouts. Giguere, one of the more spastic goaltenders who hasn't yet found his consistency since the 2003 Stanley Cup run. If he is hot, it will be tough for the Capitals to find the net, certainly harder than it has been against the goaltenders they've beaten in four straight games: Denis, Smith, Miller, Emery.
Washington: Matt Pettinger
The inaugural Capitals player of the week continued to be hot, scoring another goal against Ottawa on Wednesday. He now has 4 goals in his last 3 games. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin did get three assists and Alexander Semin has scored two goals over the four game streak, but Pettinger seems to have the hot hand of late. He also has scored one goal in two career meetings against the Ducks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Capitals Player of the Week: December 7

Matt Pettinger

In three games, Pettinger has recorded 4 goals and 5 points in 3 games. Of those four goals, two came in the decisive win against Buffalo, as did the assist. This week has brought Pettinger's season totals to 9 goals and 16 points in 20 games.

Honorable Mentions:
Olaf Kolzig: 3.00 GAA; 91.43% save percentage
Chris Clark: 3 goals; 3 points
Alexander Ovechkin: 1 goal; 4 points

Capitals 6 - Ottawa 2 Brought to You by the Number...


The number of consecutive penalties the Senators took from the end of the second period to midway through the third. These five penalties gave the Caps a long stretch of a 5 on 3, but also prevented the Senators from mounting a late third period charge, as Dallas did two games ago. The power plays gave the Caps the room to add two insurance markers, provided by Pettinger and Semin.

Five also equals the total number of penaties by the Sens in the third period and equals the number of saves Ray Emery made on power play shots (he had seven shots total).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Capitals (11-9-6) vs. Senators (15-12-1) Keys to the Game:

#1: Change the Tune from Last Time
The Senators aren't the same team that blew a 3-0 lead to the Caps in November. Back then, Ottawa was struggling to get to .500. Now they are steadily climbing their way up the East Standings. If the Caps give up a lead early again, don't expect them to make another comeback.

#2: Hold the Lead
By contrast, the Caps have come very close to relinquishing large leads during their three game winning streak. If they continue to have late-game lapses, it will come back to bite them. Tonight, the Caps must jump out to a lead early and close out the game.

#3: Minimize the Shots Against
Once again it is the Caps achilles heel. They give up 36.0 shots per game (worst in the league). Unfortunately, Ottawa averages 32.2 shots per game. Olie Kolzig does have a good record in games when he faces 40+ shots, but he did give up three quick ones against the Sens last time they faced off.

Players to Watch for...
Ottawa: Dany Heatley
The Sens leading goal scorer (with 18 on the year) has scored 4 goals in his last three games, all of which have been Ottawa wins. In his career vs. Washington, he has 6 goals and 19 points in 18 games. This could be a problem for Olie Kolzig, who has a .882 save percent against Ottawa.
Matt Pettinger
Pettinger leads the Caps in scoring over their three game winning streak. He has scored 3 goals iand 5 points n the last two games, including two against Buffalo. Pettinger epitomizes how the Caps must spread out their scoring to win. It doesn't hurt that Pett has 3 goals in his career against Ottawa either.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ken Campbell Trashes Ovechkin for Hit on Briere

Per, part of writer Ken Campbell's article has words for Alex Ovechkin's hit on Daniel Briere.

This is not the time to call into question the actions of Colin Campbell, particularly given that he is grieving the death of his mother over the weekend.

After all, the fact that neither Alex Ovechkin nor Dwayne Roloson was suspended for his actions this Saturday was not simply due to the whims of Campbell, the NHL’s top disciplinarian. It is, however, due in large part to a hockey culture that accepts violent acts as commonplace and a players’ association that often looks out more for the offender than the aggrieved player.

How else can you explain why neither player was suspended for what he did Saturday? Both acts were heinous and potentially very serious, but both players escaped without supplementary discipline after a review.

In the Washington Capitals game Saturday Night, Ovechkin drilled Daniel Briere from behind a good two seconds after Briere had dumped the puck into the zone and was clearly headed to his bench for a line change. When asked about it on an NHL conference call Monday afternoon, even Ovechkin had trouble getting his story straight.

He originally said the hit was an accident. Then he went on to say that Briere turned and Ovechkin didn’t have time to let up. But when pressed about what was accidental about the hit, Ovechkin said: “My contact was not an accident. I just saw (Briere’s) back and hit him.”

Well, if Ovechkin saw Briere’s back and hit him, then why did he say Briere turned on him? When asked exactly why he did it, Ovechkin responded by saying: “I can’t answer this question because it is a game. You know, I don’t know.”

So now that we’ve established that its all right to drill a guy from behind, knock his helmet off and almost plow his face into an open door to the bench, things are very clear now.

Apologists will say that Ovechkin didn’t hit Briere that hard and Briere was back a couple of shifts later to play in the game. That’s not the point. Players are responsible for what they do with their sticks, so they should be held accountable for what they do with their bodies.

Campbell then spends a measley paragraph on Dwayne Roloson's shot to Rick Nash's testicles (which is, in my mind, a much more blatant cheap shot than Ovechkin's). But his article is unfounded on it's primary basis, mainly that Ovechkin was unsure of his story.

First of all, Campbell treats Alex as though he were a criminal searching for an alibi while being questioned by the police. That is not the case, Alex made a mistake, he hit Briere at the moment when Briere turned to skate to the bench. It was a freak accident and nothing more.

The big basis of the argument against AO is that at one point he said it was an accident, then later said that he didn't mean to hit him that hard and saw his back. Let me be clear: the contact wasn't an accident, he meant it was an accident to hit him from behind.

Campbell argues that if Alex saw Briere's back, why did he hit him. Ovechkin was lining Briere up as Briere was skating down the wing. At the last second, Briere dumped the puck and turned to enter the bench. It was at that exact moment, that Ovechkin made contact. If Briere had continued skating along the wing (which, I believe, Ovechkin thought he would), Briere would have gotten harmlessly rubbed out along the boards. It was not a cheap shot. It was an accident. Since there is no lasting damage to Briere, hopefully, we can put this incident behind us and concentrate on the Senators on Wednesday.

Capitals (11-9-6) Power Rankings for December 5 ranks the Capitals at #16 (up from #22 last week):

Went from a six-game losing streak to a three-game winning streak,
including back-to-back wins against Dallas and Buffalo. If they can keep that
going over the next two -- at home to Ottawa and Anaheim -- then there's really
something to keep an eye on.

Key Injuries: None. ranks the Capitals at #16 (up from #23 last week):

We might be giving the Caps too much credit here, but they're regarded as one of the hardest-working teams in the league. The Caps snapped their skid with three straight wins, their first such stretch of the season.

The Hockey News ranks the Caps at #17. ranks the Caps at #18 (up from #23 last week):

After dropping six in a row, the Caps bounced back with three consecutive wins. And they've done it against quality opponents: Tampa Bay, Dallas and Buffalo. Thursday's win over the Stars was special for Olaf Kolzig, who made 35 saves to finally defeat the only team he had never beaten. "I think that rounds off the NHL, doesn't it?" Kolzig said. "It might be the last time I ever play them, too. You never know -- we don't play them next year." Last Week: 3-0-0

Average ranking: 17

Alexander Ovechkin hit on Daniel Briere

Ovechkin Gets $1,000 Fine, No Suspension

According to The Washington Post, Alex Ovechkin will not receive a suspension for his hit against Sabres forward Daniel Briere.

Ovechkin will incur a $1,000 fine though.

We talk about it," Ovechkin said after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "He tell me we understand you don't try to give some dirty hit. I tell him same. . . . I just want to hit him, but [Briere was] turning and I don't have time to do something. I'm happy it's done, I hope Briere is okay."

I think it's the right move by the NHL. Ovie's no goon and he seems sincerley sorry for the hit.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Caps (and former Caps) rumors:

Former Capital Peter Bondra is rumored to be close to a return to the NHL. Among those interested in the 38 year-old winger are Chicago, Detroit, New York Islanders, Boston and Toronto. It would be great to see Bondra return to get his 500th NHL goal. It would be even better to see him return to the Caps, but it doesn't look like George McPhee wants to deal with Bondra or agent Rich Winters.

In all likelyhood, the Islanders are the likely team to claim Bonzai.

There was some speculation that coach Glen Hanlon was on the hot seat after the Caps 6-game slide and that McPhee would make minor roster changes to turn the tide. Now that the Caps have won 3 straight, that talk has died down.