TWO-MINUTE RE-CAP: Caps Take 1-0 Series Lead

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, May 02, 2009 | , , | 0 comments »

Words cannot describe the Varlamov save.

Steckel was the best player on the ice today. Linemates Bradley and Laich not too far behind.

Let sleeping dogs lay.

Crosby 1, Ovechkin 1.

Semin's two 'slap passes' were just a tremedous example of his almost limitless skill.

Anyone see the reason Clark took that second penalty? I've watched it four times now and still don't see a hold.

Good job by Flash to get behind the D after Semin drew Orpik out of position on the third goal.

BIG win on home ice to start the series. Coach said it best: "It's going to be a heck of a series."

The Washington Capitals face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is Caps News Network's Preview.


Oct. 16 at PIT: WAS 4 - PIT 3 The Caps found themselves down 3-0 less than two minutes into the second period, but scored four unanswered goals to win in the Igloo. This was the "I hit hard with everybody," game.

Jan. 14 at PIT: WAS 6 - PIT 3 Alex Ovechkin had two goals and an assist at the Caps fairly dominated the Penguins on their home ice. It was a physical affair, as Crosby left injured and Malkin cross-checked Ovechkin from behind.

Feb. 22 at DC: WAS 5 - PIT 2 The NBC game where Ovechkin and Crosby had words in front of the Caps bench, Ovie pulled Crosby's helmet over his face and waved him 'bye-bye'. Fleury gave up five goals in 33 minutes.

Mar. 8 at DC: PIT 4 - WAS 3 Shootout win for Pittsburgh. Crosby beat Theodore on the Pens final shot and Ovechkin couldn't beat Fleury. There were 10 roughing penalties in the game.

WAS: 50-24-8-108, second in East, first in Southeast.

3rd in Goals Scored (272); 20th in Goals Against (245); 2nd in Power Play (25.2%); 17th in Penalty Kill (80.6%)

PIT: 45-28-9-99, fourth in East, second in Northeast.

6th in Goals Scored (264); 18th in Goals Against (239); 20th in Power Play (17.2%); 8th in Penalty Kill (82.7%)


The Capitals are 1-6 all-time against the Penguins in the playoffs, all within an 11-year span from 1990 to 2001. The Caps won a grand total of one of those series, a first-round match-up after the 1993-1994 season.

The only time these foes have met in the second round was 1991, in the first of their playoff match-ups. The Penguins won that series and also sent the Capitals home in the opening round of the playoffs in 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001.

But only one player, defenseman Sergei Gonchar, was involved in any of those series. Gone are Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra.

Washington took three out of four from Pittsburgh this season, including both games in Pittsburgh.


Everyone knows the names. NBC and NHL executives are droooling to get this match-up on TV.

This series has the top three scorers in the league (Malkin-1, Ovechkin-2, Crosby-3) and six of the top 30 (Backstrom-9, Semin-19, Green-29).

There will be much to-do about the rivalry between Ovechkin and Crosby, and the apparent hatred between Ovie and Malkin.

Then there was Semin's comments about Crosby being boring, and you've got yourself the makings of a multi-night mini-drama.

While there seemed to be a peace brokered between countrymen Ovechkin and Malkin at this year's all-star game, there's no doubt the rivalry with Crosby remains: between the players, in the media, and amongst fans.


The biggest question facing the Capitals in round one was: What would they get from goalie Jose Theodore? The inconsistent netminder imploded in Game One and was replaced by coach Bruce Boudreau with then 20-year old rookie Simeon Varlamov, who had all but five games of NHL experience to his credit. He celebrated his 21st birthday between Games Six and Seven.

The rookie responded with two shut outs and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.17 and .952 save percentage (SV%) in six games against the Rangers.

No stranger to pressure-filled arenas, Varlamov led his Russian Super League team to the championships as an 19-year old, boasting a 1.62 GAA in 16 playoff games after backing his team in 44 games with a 2.45 in the regular season.

The Pens counter with Marc-Andre Fleury. He had a solid, if unspectacular, season with a 2.67 GAA and .912 SV%.

Against the Flyers in the first round he lifted his game, recording a 2.39 GAA and .922 SV%. He faced 40 or more shots twice and won both games, most notably stopping 45 of 46 Flyers shots in a crucial and close Game Four to steal a victory


While most of the media attention for the Second Round match up with Pittsburgh will be centered around the teams' mega-stars, the role players in this series figure to be vital to either team's chances of winning.

Washington must find more secondary scoring. Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr and Brooks Laich had two goals combined in seven games in the first round.

While Matt Bradley and Tom Poti chipped in with two goals apiece against the Rangers, neither can be counted on to light the lamp on a consistent basis, and the Caps third line must crash the net and create chances.

The return of captain Chris Clark in Game Seven, due to the suspension of Donald Brashear, seemed to bolster the spirit of the squad. Clark provided a spark on the ice as well, registering a couple of hits in limited ice time. He did not score, but did drive to the net on several occasions, a task few Capitals – other than Laich – seem to relish.

The Penguins third line of Tyler Kennedy, Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke will look to pressure the Capitals 'D' with a strong forecheck, as they did in their first round series against Philadelphia. The trio play a gritty, hard-charging style that is a stark contrast to the dynamic skills and skating ability of the Pens' primary lines. Kennedy had a goal and two assists in the first round.

The trade deadline brought veterans Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin to the 'Igloo.' The pair add plenty of grit and experience to a team that played with too much finesse up front in the early part of the season. Oh, and it didn't hurt that Kunitz and Guerin already have their names stenciled into Lord Stanley's Cup.


On Wednesday, not coincidentally the day after Pittsburgh found out they drew Washington in the second round, the Penguins announced that they were removing the 'interim' tag from coach Dan Bylsma.

Bylsma took over from Michel Therrien mid-way through the season and the team took off after that. They won eight of their first nine and barely slowed down, making a push from 13th in the conference all the way to the fourth seed in the playoffs.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has already proven in these playoffs he's not afraid to push some buttons to get his team going. Lifting the veteran Theodore and replacing him with Varlamov took intestinal fortitude.

Last season's Jack Adams award winner also seems to enjoy playing the chess game in the press, as he tweaked New York coach John Tortorella early in the series, had Ovechkin sit on the Rangers bench during a practice, and playfully boasts he doesn't even speak with his 21-year old netminder for fear of "screwing him up."

The Definition of "The Crowd Goes Wild!"

Posted by Cheryl Nichols | Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | , , , , | 2 comments »

Posted by Cheryl Nichols, Contributor and Photographer for Caps News Network

Most of the post-game interviews mention how loud the Verizon was during the last few minutes of Game 7. I think my ears are still ringing in fact!

If you were not able to be at the "Phonebooth" last night, here are a few video clips to make you feel like you were there. Or relive it again. I got the chills watching it this morning. I tried my best to keep camera still, however, it was so exciting that it was tough! I will have photos up later today.

Looking forward to Round Two!



After Federov scored and Caps went up 2-1 with about 4 1/2 minutes left, the place went wild. EVERYONE was on their feet and screaming at the top of their lungs for the rest of the game. It really motivated the Caps to keep skating. You hear the crowd chat, "Let's Go Caps" and "Lundqvist, Lundqvist, Lundqvist...." I stopped recording when there was a stop in play with only a few seconds and picked back up in the next video. It was really unbelievable!! My ears are still ringing. Awesome to be there. I panned around a bit to show the entire atmosphere and did not use zoom.


Sergei Fedorov scored with 4:59 remaining in the game, breaking a 1-1 tie and bringing down the house, as the Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-1, advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since their trip to the finals in the 1997-98 season.

The Capitals became just the 21st team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-1.

Fedorov, 39, took a head-man pass from Matt Bradley and skated down the right wing. He hit the brakes hard, faking out defenseman Wade Redden, and fired a slap shot high glove side to beat Henrik Lundqvist.

It was an uneven game, with the two teams trading first period goals. Nik Antropov took a drop pass from Brandon Dubinsky in the slot and lifted the puck past rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov, who had lost his stick in contact with Dubinsky.

Then a few minutes lated, Alexander Semin whipped a shot toward the Rangers net, which was deflected past a defenseless Lundqvist.

The Rangers, for their part, played the aggressor during much of the middle part of the game, but just couldn't click against the Caps defense and goalie Varlamov.

Varlamov, who turned 21 just yesterday, made 14 saves and played with a confidence that belies his NHL inexperience.

His biggest save was his first of the evening, as Nik Antropov came in on a breakaway and tried to stuff a backhander past the goalie's right skate. But the rookie put his blade on the post, making the first of many big saves.

Lundqvist, who had been pulled the last two games, played an excellent game, making 22 saves, some in spectacular fashion. But the Caps have beaten him glove-side several times this series, and that's where Fedorov put the game winner tonight.

So in coach Bruce Boudreau's second career NHL Game Seven, his oldest player and his youngest led the team to victory.

Thanks to Carolina's 4-3 win over New Jersey in their Game Seven tonight, Washington will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. Pittsburgh beat the Philadelphia Flyers four games to two in the first round.

Game One of the Second Round will be Saturday, May 2.

05:35 Nik Antropov (2), Snap Shot. Assist: Dubinsky, Avery
15:34 Alexander Semin (5), Wrist Shot. Assist: Backstrom, Green


15:01 Sergei Fedorov (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Bradley

1. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 14, Save Pct: .933)
2. S. Fedorov - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
3. H. Lundqvist - NYR (Saves: 22, Save Pct: .917)

Fedorov becomes the oldest player in NHL history to score a game-winning goal in a Game Seven.

Caps captain Chris Clark played and provided a spark for his team, taking the place of suspended winger Donald Brashear.

There were just three minor penalties in the game.

The Caps were outshot in the first period 8-2, but outshot New York 13-1 in the final frame.


Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers in Game Seven of their best-of-seven first round Stanley Cup playoffs series. It's the second straight season the Capitals have clawed their way from behind to force a Game Seven in the first round.

This game is full of sub-plots, adding to the pressure, mystique and challenge that comes with Game Seven.


New York goalie Henrik Lundquvist had never been lifted from two consecutive contests in his NHL career until the past two games. He has surrendered nine goals in his last four periods of hockey, the first two periods of Games Five and Six. In the first four games of the series, Lundqvist had allowed just eight goals.

Rangers' coach John Tortorella acknowledged the problem. "Hank's got to play better, and he knows that."

Lundqvist has been vulnerable to the high glove-side in the past two contests, allowing several goals to his left.


Caps' forward Donald Brashear was suspended for a total of six games; one for his pre-game altercation with Rangers tough guy Colton Orr, and five more for his vicious shoulder check on Blair Betts, which left Betts concussed and with a broken orbital bone.

It is likely that Washington captain Chris Clark will return to the lineup in Brashear's place. Clark missed the final 33 games of the regular season with a wrist fracture. "Hopefully I have a little more legs than the Rangers have and hopefully I can add some speed," Clark said.

Tortorella returns to the scene of his Game Five crime, when he threw a water bottle into the stands behind the Rangers bench. Tortorella received a one-game suspension for his actions, which were in response to verbal taunts by some fans behind the bench.

And Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky is still insisting that Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn bit him in the arm during a scrum in Game Six, going so far as to show reporters red marks on his wrist. Morrisonn maintains his innocence.

"That's not what happened," he said. "I didn't do that."


For two years in a row, the Washington Capitals were Southeast Division Champions, though they took different routes to the title.

For two years in a row, they hosted a former Patrick-division foe in the first round of the playoffs.

For two years in a row, they dug themselves a 3-1 hole, only to storm back and force a Game Seven at Verizon Center.

Here's where the similarities end.


Washington Capitals winger Donald Brashear was given a one-game suspension for his pre-game altercation with New York's Colton Orr, and a five-game suspension for a "shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," Blair Betts, according to Collin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Betts has a fractured orbital bone and is out indefinitely.

Brashear's suspension will be served beginning tomorrow night when the Capitals meet the Rangers in Game 7 of the series. The suspension will extend through the Capitals' next five 2009 playoff games, the 2009-10 regular season, or both, as circumstances warrant.

Here is the play in question:

While it's fairly obvious the check was late, it's otherwise a perfectly legal shoulder check. Brashear's elbow comes up after the contact, it's not what initiated the contact. Brashear also obviously wanted to go after Aaron Voros, but Voros went straight to the bench and Betts was the next Ranger in the area.

The hit was vicious and late, but was it illegal? Neither referee on the ice thought so--the only penalty on Brashear was for the roughing with Paul Mara after the play. Could it be that the resultant injury made the act less defensible in the mind of Collin Campbell? That's not right.

Betts was seriously injured on the play, but you know what could have avoided this? Betts keeping his head up. He had just dumped the puck and turned to go to the bench. He let his guard down in what has been a very tight-checking series.

Here's another quote from Campbell:

"It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."

"Targeted the head"? You mean like Orr clothes-lining Alexander Semin in Game Five?

Let's parse the last part of the quote: "causing significant injury." He did not say "with the intent to cause serious injury." Campbell effectively admits, in his choice of words, that he is penalizing Brashear for causing the injury, not for his intent. Again, this is wrong. It's not how the rule is supposed to be upheld.

If Betts was simply dazed, or even concussed, but not had his orbital bone broken, would we still be taking about five games?

While we're on the subject of "cheap shots", was this any worse than Brandon Dubinsky boarding Mike Green from behind? Dubinsky was given 14 minutes of penalty, including the game misconduct.

Was Brashear's hit worse than Sean Avery butt-ending Milan Jurina in Game Four, bloodying his nose and cheek. Or Avery high-sticking Brian Pothier in the same game, a player just returning from missing a year with concussion symptoms. In both instances, Avery not only intended to injury, but in butt-end instance, actually did injure. Shouldn't Avery, by Campbell's own carefully chosen words, be suspended for his hit on Jurcina in that case?

Wait, though. Game Four wasn't on NBC.

Or is this a case of Campbell caving in to Glen Sather's ridiculous e-mail after his coach's heinous actions in Game Five, where John Tortorella threw a water bottle into a group of fans, injuring a woman, and brandishing a stick in the direction of fans?

Tortorella received a one-game suspension, but Sather's long-winded letter, a letter he allowed published in the media, accused the Verizon Center staff of allowing mistreatment of the Rangers coaches and players. Basically, the fans were calling the players and coaches names, and Tortorella responded by throwing things into the stands.

So was Brashear's suspension affected by Sather's public letter of condemnation and the media attention it has received? It would appear so, since the on-ice officials didn't think the hit warranted a penalty.

"Make-up" calls happen all the time in hockey. This one is simply ridiculous.

The Washington Capitals built a 3-1 first period lead, thanks to goals from three different defensemen, and cruised to a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden to even the best-of-seven series at three games apiece.

For the second year in a row, the Capitals have come from behind in a series to force a Game Seven at home. Washington hopes this season the result will be different.

Milan Jurcina, Mike Green, and Tom Poti all got the puck past the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who looked all but impenetrable earlier in the series. Viktor Kozlov and Alex Ovechkin each added second period markers, and for the second straight game Lundqvist watched the third period from the bench.

"He can't play every game like a god," Ovechkin said of Lundqvist, who had stopped 141 of 149 shots in the first four games when the Rangers grabbed a 3-1 series lead. "He can't save the game all the time."

Simeon Varlamov made 29 saves for the win. New York out shot Washington 32-22, but the Caps only had two shots on goal in the third period due to playing short-handed much of the frame, as they took four minor penalties.

But the Rangers did very little with all that power play time, as they went 2-for-8 with the advantage for the game.

Tom Poti, who toiled for the Rangers before joining the Capitals, was the player of the game. In addition to his goal, he had three helpers, and logged 23:46, most on the squad.

The game had several interesting sub-plots as well, with a couple that will bear further scrutiny.

First, the Rangers played without coach John Tortorella, who was suspended for Game Six as a result of his altercation with fans during Game Five at Verizon Center. Tortorella was caught on camera throwing a water bottle and brandishing a stick at fans behind the bench.

That prompted the Rangers organization to file a letter with the Commissioner's Office requesting an inquiry into the security at Verizon Center. It read, in part:
"...we respectfully request that you consider appropriate discipline in light of Washington's gross negligence in ensuring the safety of the personnel on the Rangers' bench, including Coach Tortorella, in the face of the Rangers' repeated requests for intervention against egregious fan misconduct during Game 5. "
The email to Commissioner Gary Bettman continued:

"...several people seated immediately behind the visitors' bench took advantage of the looseness of the glass panels and the unusually wide gaps between the panels to assault the Rangers with some of the most obscene language imaginable. Because of the way the glass is installed, the patron sitting behind Coach Tortorella (the gray-haired, bearded man in the white T-Shirt) could literally scream into the coach's ear. According to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, one patron was screaming at the team, in graphic language, about whether Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have a sexual relationship. This was within earshot of several children seated nearby. Several other fans also made repeated homophobic remarks. Moreover, Mr. Ramsay reported that he and other bench personnel were spit on by one or more "fans" as they yelled through the gaps in the glass. "

The Game Six controversies started in the pre-game skate, as Donald Brashear had words with Rangers' tough guy Colton Orr at center ice. As Brashear started away, he gave Orr a shove with his stick and glove. Physical altercations during pre-games skates are expressly forbidden and the incident is just part of Brashear's conduct that will be reviewed from this game.

Late in the first period, Brashear laid out Rangers forward Blair Betts with a vicious hit from his shoulder to Betts' upper body, knocking the ace penalty killer to the ice, and he needed assistance to the locker room. He is doubtful for Game Seven.

The check, which did not earn a penalty, came as Betts had cleared the puck and was starting to turn for the bench. He never saw Brashear coming.

In the second period, Brandon Dubinsky ran at Mike Green from behind, sending Green head-first into the boards. Shaone Morrisonn came to Green's defense, and according to the Rangers interim coach Jim Schoenfeld, Dubinsky needed a tetanus shot from Morrisonn biting him.

Game Seven is Tuesday night at Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m. Extra security for the Rangers bench is expected.

07:09 Milan Jurcina (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Laich, Steckel
08:15 Power Play - Scott Gomez (2), Tip-In. Assist: Redden, Avery
13:58 Power Play - Mike Green (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Semin, Poti
17:14 Tom Poti (2), Tip-In. Assist: Steckel, Gordon

09:21 Viktor Kozlov (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Poti, Fedorov
16:44 Power Play - Alex Ovechkin (3), Slap Shot. Assist: Poti, Backstrom

04:21 Power Play - Ryan Callahan (2), Backhand Shot. Assist: Morris, Gomez
19:54 Marc Staal (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Korpikoski, Sjostrom

1. T. Poti - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 3)
2. S. Varlamov - WAS (Saves: 29, Save Pct: .906)
3. A. Ovechkin - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)