Saturday, February 16, 2008

Caps Visit Lightning

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, February 16th, 2008, 7:30
St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida

Last Meeting: 12/16/2007, Caps win 3-2

About the Opponent

Tampa Bay Lightning: 25-27-6, 56 points, 5th in the Southeast Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Team Leaders
Goals: Vincent Lecavalier (32)
Assists: Martin St. Louis (49)
Points: Vincent Lecavalier (75)
Plus/Minus: tie - Vincent Lecavalier and Michel Ouellet (+5)
Penalty Minutes: Shane O'Brien (124)
Fights: Andre Roy (10)

Random Lightning Fact
Vincent Lecavalier was named captain of the Lightning on March 11, 2000 at the age of 19 years and 11 months. At the time he was the youngest captain in NHL history, surpassing Steve Yzerman who was named captain of the Red Wings when he was 21 years, 5 months.

Random Lightning Statistic
Center Brad Richards' -26 plus/minus rating is the worst in the NHL this season.

Keys to the Game

Secondary scoring. Yeah, it's probably going to be that for a while.

Tampa Bay
Get physical. The Lightning are a team built more on speed and skill than grit and physicality but with the Capitals playing back-to-back road games, Tampa would benefit from griding it out as much as possible.

Players to Watch

Sami Lepisto - if he gets in the lineup it will be interesting to see what Lepisto can do...and if he can play well enough to get playing time away from John Erskine.

Tampa Bay
Vinny Prospal - Ever since their 2005 Cup run, people have talked about Tampa's "Big Three" of Richards, St. Louis and Lecavalier, but Prospal is an offensive threat as well - and already has 26 goals and 54 points so far this season.

Click Here For Expanded Analysis

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wizards Get One Before the Break

After coming up short for two weeks and following back-to-back heartbreaking defeats, the Washington Wizards finally stopped their eight-game landslide Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Antonio Daniels was back in the starting lineup after missing two games with bone spurs on his right ankle and provided the steady hand that the Wiz have been missing. He scored nine points, pulled down eight boards and had seven assists with just one turnover in 46 minutes in Washington's 91-89 victory over the Clippers (17-33). AD also played a key role in Washington's final possession.

With the score tied at 89 and the clock winding down, Daniels drove into the lane and put up a fade-away jumper the bounced high off the front of the rim. Darius Songaila alertly tapped the ball back up into the air toward the glass and Antawn Jamison somehow got a hand on the ball to tip it in.

It was an improbable play but one the Wizards (25-27) desperately needed and also deserved
after another strong showing in the finale of their brutal West coast swing.

Jamison overcame a slow start to the game with 29 points on
13-of-25 shooting with nine boards, Brendan Haywood had another strong showing with 15 and nine and DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche both scored 13.

Rookie Dominic McGuire, who has seen an astronomical rise in
his playing time with Washington's various injuries was on the floor for 23 minutes and had a game-high 12 boards.

Another great team effort for the Wiz who managed to avoid letting a second straight game slip away despite an impressive 24-point, nine-board effort from rookie Al Thornton and 20 points from Corey Maggette.

Now the Wizards will have a much needed respite during the
weekend's All-Star break to recover before resuming play against the Knicks at home on Tuesday. Caron Butler will not play in Sunday's game, despite being selected, in order to get his hip flexor injury fully healed. The rest will also be a welcome one for Daniels, who has been hobbled by his ankle injury and the Wizards are already counting down to the return of Agent Zero early next month. Expect Etan Thomas to be back in uniform soon after as well. So while Jamison enjoys his night under the bright lights in New Orleans, the rest of the guys will be kicking back to get ready for the stretch run.


"That's my game. It's different from all of the other guys in the league but as long as it's working, and it's successful, I'm going to continue to do it. Just from being quick off my feet, I was able to go out there, get a hand on the ball and tip it back in. If I would have come back down with it, I would have run out of time." - Jamison on his tip-in game-winner.

"It was a heck of a stretch for us, especially when we were down, but our guys stuck in there and were warriors for us. DeShawn was a warrior. Antawn Jamison was a warrior. Brendan Haywood was great. We had a bunch of guys step up and that's going to help us down the road." - Eddie Jordan on the road trip.

The Numbers Game

- Washington's utterly dominant rebounding margin against the Clips.

- The Wiz's edge on the offensive glass - which included two key taps by Songaila and Jamison that gave them the winning bucket.

12 & 7
- D-Mac's rebounding numbers. Twelve total boards, seven coming on the offensive end in his first NBA game with his father in the stands. Now you see why I'm so high on this guy. He brings that intensity on defense and on the glass that the Wiz must have off the bench.

- Washington's record in games decided by four points of fewer this season.

- Their record without Caron Butler.

- Their record on the four-game West coast trip, dubbed "the rookie tour" by Eddie Jordan.

All photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

Click Here For Expanded Analysis

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Thrashers/Capitals Preview

Washington Capitals at Atlanta Thrashers
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008, 7:00 PM
Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
Last Meeting: 2/2/2008, Caps lose 2-0

About the Opponent

Atlanta Thrashers: 27-27-4, 58 points, 3rd in the Southeast Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference

Team Leaders
Goals: Ilya Kovalchuk (39)
Assists: Tobias Enstrom (29)
Points: Ilya Kovalchuk (65)
Plus/Minus: Niclas Havelid (+7)
Penalty Minutes: Chris Thorburn (83)
Fights: Chris Thorburn (9)

Random Thrashers Fact
In addition to flubbing the eight overall pick in the 2003 draft (where he selected Braydon Coburn over Dion Phaneuf), Don Waddell dropped the ball in 1999 when he had the first overall pick and selected Patrick Stefan. The second and third overall picks: Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin.

Random Thrashers Statistics
(1) As of January 24th the Thrashers had six players on their roster that were originally drafted by Atlanta, tied for 23rd in the league. I currently count four: Ilya Kovalchuk, Kari Lehtonen, Tobias Enstrom and Garnet Excelby.

(2) Last season, in an effort to make the playoffs and save his own job, Don Waddell traded Braydon Coburn to the Flyers for Alexei Zhitnik. This season Coburn has 24 points (4+20) in 54 games and is leading the Flyers with a +11 rating, while Zhitnik has 6 points (2+4) in 57 games with a -8 rating and has been a healthy scratch.

Keys to the Game

Avoid mistakes. As the better team, the Capitals should control this game; this only way the Thrashers will be in it is if they can capitalize on mistakes by Capitals players that lead to soft goals, odd man rushes or penalties and hence give the Thrashers a chance to get in the game.

Play for yourself. Maybe it seems like weird advice, but given that Waddell traded away a readily improving player to a much more effectively run organization last year. If Thrashers players can use the possibility of a ticket out of Atlanta to motivate themselves, they should play very well.

Players to Watch

Boyd Gordon - after Eric Fehr didn't do a whole lot with his time on the top line Gordon was moved back up to the second line, centering Tomas Fleischmann and Alexander Semin. Can Gordon make the most of a second chance in an offensive role?

Tobi[as] Enstrom - the rookie blue liner has been perhaps th lone pleasant surprise for Atlanta hockey fans this season, leading the team in assists and accounting for half of all goals scored by the Thrashers defense, and without him the Thrashers might already be out of the playoff race. On the down side, Enstrom is listed at 5'9'', 169, but looks to be about 5'7'', 150, which is a serious lack of size for a defenseman.

Kari Lehtonen - after stopping all 36 shots he saw in his last game against the Capitals, how could Lehtonen not be a player to watch?
Click Here For Expanded Analysis

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Short-handed Wizards Drop Another Heartbreaker

No Gilbert Arenas. No Etan Thomas. No Caron Butler. No Antonio Daniels.

That's what the Wizards have been dealing with for the last few games now, and those are more than enough reasons to explain their eight-game losing streak. But - with the exception of one horrendous quarter in Philly - they really haven't played poorly.

With a patchwork starting lineup and reserves leading the way, Washington is competing each and every night and yet the wins seem to be just out of their reach. Take last night's 120-117 loss at Golden State. The Wizards played a stellar first half, beating the Warriors at their own game by running the floor and scoring at will from all over the court. They put up a ridiculous 72 points in the first half and led by as many as 23 points behind hot shooting from Roger Mason and another solid effort from Antawn Jamison. He and Brendan Haywood crashed the boards - combining for 20 rebounds and two individual double-doubles.

But Steven Jackson took over in the second half, scoring 10 of the Warriors' 12 straight points in the final minutes as the home team stormed back to win it. Washington really fell apart defensively down the stretch and was unable to get the one stop they needed to slow down the surging Warriors. They took the short end of several calls down the stretch as well, as DeShawn Stevenson and Jamison got nailed in the head on consecutive possessions and no fouls were called. On the other end, Washington kept fouling Jackson and the 82 percent free throw shooter calmly sank 15-of-17 from the line.

There were many positives, like Mason's career-high 32 points, five treys and six assists or Haywood's 20-and-10 effort. Jamison had 25 points, 10 boards and a uncharacteristic six steals (accounting for more than half of the team's 11) and the Wiz shot 47 percent from beyond the arc (10-for-21) and 89 percent from the line (23-for-26).

It was a tremendous team effort for a squad that had lost by one the night before in Phoenix (107-108), but when you're on a skid like these guys - the team's longest since 2001 - getting close isn't good enough. You need to win one to stop the bleeding.

The Wizards need to get healthy and Eddie Jordan knows that, which is why he's not taking any chances by throwing his guys back out on the court before they've fully healed. But with or without their injured stars, they are desperate for a win to give them something positive to build on. They'll have another chance to get that elusive 'W' Wednesday night at Staples Center against the Clips.

"We jumped on them early but we knew that they are a team capable of coming back so our big thing was to get back and keep them from getting easy buckets and that's what they were getting. They were getting layups, open threes, second-chance shots. These are things you can't give up and win. You can't win doing that and that's the bottom line. We gave too many of those up and didn't score enough at the other end. This is a game we should have won." - Roger Mason

All photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

Click Here For Expanded Analysis

Monday, February 11, 2008

2/10, 9:00 PM - Capitals regain division lead with win over Rangers

Capitals 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

The Capitals recent woes on the powerplay had been well documented leading into this game, with the recent power outage being touched on both in this blog and in the Caps telecast and being explored more in depth at Japers' Rink and the Washington Post, the consensus being that if the Capitals wanted to play well enough to get themselves into the playoffs their powerplay needed to step up their play significantly. The Capitals of course were well aware of this and it seems that the extra time Bruce Boudreau spent in practice was well spent as the Capitals topped the Rangers 3-2, getting powerplay goals from Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Green as the powerplay was 2-for-3 on the afternoon.

Aside of the powerplay, the Capitals were primarily inconsistent, getting outshot 33-24, winning only 41% of the game's faceoffs and taking seven minor penalties. But although the Capitals weren't playing particularly well they did play smart, getting dirty on the powerplay and taking advantage of the Rangers' schedule, which had them playing Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. Knowing the Rangers had played a very physical rivalry game only 24 hours earlier the Capitals took the physical game to the Rangers, outhitting them 22-12 and skating very short, high-tempo shifts in the third period and grinding out the win in overtime.

One final thought: The referees in this game simply embarrassed themselves in the first period. They looked, simply put, like amateurs, missing an obvious holding call committed on Matt Pettinger where the Rangers player had this arm wrapped around Pettinger's waist for several second and then fell down (while still holding on to Pettinger) and let Paul Mara board/cross check Eric Fehr into the boards three times without a call and yet were indignant enough to call Stephan Valiquette for delay of game and Sean Avery for unsportsmanlike conduct because the players had to gall to question the officiating or not follow referees instructions to a 'T' (speaking of which, if the refs are going to call that why don't they call Avery for getting in the face and holding up the progress of Alex Ovechkin after Ovechkin hit Marc Staal? Oh right, because they weren't personally offended). This kind of officiating is exactly what you expect out of a bad amateur referee - missing calls, even obvious ones, yet drunk on their own power and more concerned with showing how (in this venue at least) they can exert control over other grown men. The NHL should be better than his.

DMG's 3 Stars
(1) Olaf Kolzig - saved 31 of 33 shots (.939 save percentage) Ovechkin and Green were great, but without Kolzig's effort the Capitals probably don't win this game.
(2) Alexander Ovechkin - 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 3 hits
(3) Mike Green - 1 goal (game winner), 5 shots

Quick Hits

  • The bad luck continues for Matt Pettinger, who had a perfect shot early in the first and beat Valiquette, but hit the crossbar.

  • Good music selections by Comcast on their segment on Mike Green's apartment, especially the Bloc Party.

  • How great was the Capitals coaching staff's reaction when Green's slap shot hit the back of the net?

  • No Capitals forward that took more than one faceoff had a faceoff winning percentage of 50% or higher.

  • Jeff Schultz had a very good game, with 3 blocked shots, 2 hits, and a +1 plus/minus rating.

  • Credit to Boyd Gordon to being in front of the net, like the forward should be on the play, and picking up the goal.

  • The Capitals hits were spread out very well: 12 Caps had hits; three had three or more hits and seven had at least two.

  • 36 games and counting without back-to-back regulation losses under Boudreau.

Click Here For Expanded Analysis

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zorn Named Head Coach

Dan Snyder promoted his new offensive coordinator Jim Zorn to head coach thus ending the Redskins' search. If we can take anything away from his days in Seattle, Zorn knows how to mold a quarterback. He also comes from the Mike Holmgren coaching circuit, which has produced a lot of NFL head coaches, but not all of them have been successes so that won't tell us much.
I'm interested to hear what the Redskins players have to say about the man who's temperament and style has been compared very closely to that of Joe Gibbs. He sounds like a decent fit and I'm sure Snyder wanted a guy that he could have a greater amount of control over.
At this point, I'd rather have a guy that we know nothing about that someone that has already failed once in the NFL.

-The Hokie

Click Here For Expanded Analysis