Sports Outside the Beltway

Back on track? Washington beats NY Rangers 4-0

The Capitals down two games to none, won the must win game.

While Alex Ovechkin tried to figure out Henrik Lundqvist, the Washington Capitals found a way to beat the New York Rangers.

Ovechkin went a third game without a goal, but earned two assists for the second-seeded Capitals, who methodically posted a 4-0 victory over the No. 7 Rangers and got back into the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Monday night.

Behind 33 saves from 20-year-old Simeon Varlamov, the Capitals cut the series deficit to 2-1 — after a pair of home losses — and moved into position to tie the best-of-seven matchup Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Despite playing only six career NHL games, Varlamov made a surprise start in Game 2, after Jose Theodore was ineffective in the opener.

Varlamov played well in game two also, only giving up one goal. If I was Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau, I’d keep playing him.


Stanley Cup playoffs begin- NY Rangers beat Washington 4-3

The Eastern Conference’s #7 pulled off the surprise of the night.

If goaltending wins in the playoffs, the New York Rangers’ Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals might be worth more than an early series lead.

There was nothing but praise for Henrik Lundqvist’s performance following the Rangers’ 4-3 win Wednesday night. The New York goalie made 32 saves, and the three shots that got by him were hardly his fault.

Around the corner, in the home locker room at the Verizon Center, there was plenty of finger-pointing at Jose Theodore — by himself. And his coach didn’t exactly disagree. “There’s times when you sit there, you need the save, and he didn’t make the save when we needed it,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

“Just wasn’t good enough,” said Theodore, who stopped only 17 of 21 shots — and was unable to get his glove on Brandon Dubinsky’s winner with 8:17 remaining.

Theodore having a bad night should come as no surprise. Florida pummeled him 7-4 in the regular season finale. His play wasn’t very good during the rest of the regular season, as I noted in posts here, here, and here. Jose Theodore is not a championship quality goalie. I’m not the strongest of NHL experts but the Washington goalie situation is common knowledge to those who follow the sport.

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN writes-

There’s an extra off day before the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals resumes Saturday afternoon.

An extra day for Washington coach Bruce Boudreau to contemplate the biggest decision in his short NHL coaching career.

Jose Theodore or Simeon Varlamov?

A little early, perhaps, for that kind of drastic decision, and maybe some would see it as a sign of panic. But when you outshoot a team 35-21 and lose 4-3 to a New York team missing Chris Drury on four goals that should have been stopped, it’s the kind of decision you have to consider, even if 20-year-old Varlamov has all of 329 minutes of NHL experience under his belt.

“There’s a chance anything can happen,” Boudreau responded when we asked him about a change in goal for Saturday. “I said earlier: When you lose, you make changes. I’m not saying in goal [necessarily], but there’s a possibility of changes in a couple of positions.”

Boudreau has to sit down and think this through carefully. The stakes could not be any higher. If Theodore goes back in and delivers another stinker, the Caps could be down 2-0 headed into Madison Square Garden. Season over. But if rookie Varlamov isn’t ready for this kind of task, what’s your next move after that?

My answer- Make plans for the off season. Washington was dumb not to address their Goalie need before the trade deadline. I think they will come back and beat New York but they won’t advance past the next round.


No way Jose- FL Panthers rout Washington 6-2

The Capitals got the first and last goal of the game but little went right in between. From AP-

Stephen Weiss, Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester scored power-play goals in the first period, Florida held Alex Ovechkin without a point until the final minute, and the Panthers beat the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals 6-2 Sunday.

McCabe finished with three assists, and Weiss had two. Florida’s other goals were scored by rookie Michael Frolik, Richard Zednik and Jassen Cullimore.

The Capitals — coming off a rousing overtime victory Saturday at Eastern Conference-leading Boston — heard boos in their own building and pulled starting goalie Jose Theodore after falling behind by three goals in the opening period.

Florida is the only NHL team to beat Washington twice at home this season. This game further proves what I said earlier this season. The Capitals goaltending leaves much to be desired. They won’t win the Stanley Cup or even make the finals if they continue to ride Jose Theodore.

The trading deadline is three days away. Your move Washington.


Washington Capitals Mark Green sets new record for defensemen

The old record stood for 25 years. From columnist John Kreiser-

Mike Green and the Washington Capitals both got what they came for.

Green set an NHL record for defensemen by scoring a goal in his eighth consecutive game, and the Caps left the St. Pete Times Forum with the two points they wanted by rolling over the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old defenseman made history when he picked up the carom after Matt Pettinger blocked his initial shot and snapped the puck through the legs of goaltender Karri Ramo at 5:33 of the second period for a power-play goal that made it 4-0. It broke a tie with Mike O’Connell, who scored in seven consecutive games for the Boston Bruins midway through the 1983-84 season.

“It’s incredible,” said Green, who was covered with shaving cream applied by his teammates after the game. “I’m playing with some of the best players in the world.”

Up next for Washington, is a game this afternoon against their division rival Florida Panthers. The cats are red hot right now, they are 6-2 since the all-star break and 7th in the playoff standings but only two points out of 5th with one less game played and three points out of 4th. Catching Washington for the division lead is unlikely but I am feeling more and more certain Florida will make their first NHL playoff appearance in nine years this April.


Rookie Goalie Steve Mason stymies Washington, Columbus wins 3-0

It’s because of Mason that the Blue Jackets find themselves in contention for their first ever playoff appearance. From

Steve Mason already led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. The rookie goaltending sensation for the Columbus Blue Jackets now has sole possession of the lead in shutouts as well, despite having spent the first month of the season in the minor leagues.

Mason stopped all 45 shots by the Washington Capitals, and the injury-plagued Jackets got a goal and assist each from Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin in a 3-0 win Friday night at Verizon Center, finishing with an impressive 4-2 record on a six-game road trip.

“It’s huge for us,” Mason said. “Obviously, with a lot of guys out of the lineup it was a big opportunity for other guys to step up. They did that. We had a down first period, but the guys bounced back in the second and the third.”

Mason’s sixth shutout broke a tie with Niklas Backstrom of Minnesota and Roberto Luongo of Vancouver, who achieved all of his prior to Nov. 8 and has been out since late November after hurting his groin.

Mason, whose goals against fell to 1.74 while his save percentage improved to .939, didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 5, but he took advantage of an injury to Pascal Leclaire and has since taken the starting job.

Mason is having a great year and should be given serious consideration for rookie of the year.


Florida Panthers and the Eastern NHL Conference at the half way mark

The Florida Panthers played their 41st game of the NHL season last night. A 4-2 win over division rival Carolina Panthers. Before I make some comments, here are the standings

1 Boston Bruins Games played- 41 Record- 30-7-4 Points- 64
2 Washington Capitals 41, 27-11-3, 57
3 Philadelphia Flyers 41, 22-10-9, 53
4 Montréal Canadiens 40, 24-10-6, 54
5 New York Rangers 42, 24-15-3, 51
6 New Jersey Devils 40, 23-14-3, 49
7 Carolina Hurricanes 42, 21-16-5, 47
8 Buffalo Sabres 40, 20-15-5, 45
9 Florida Panthers 41, 19-16-6, 44
10 Pittsburgh Penguins 42, 20-18-4, 44
11 Toronto Maple Leafs 41, 16-19-6, 38
12 Atlanta Thrashers 42, 14-23-5, 33
13 Ottawa Senators 39, 13-20-6, 32
14 Tampa Bay Lightning 40, 11-19-10, 32
15 New York Islanders 42, 12-26-4, 28

First I can safely conclude the NY Islanders, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Atlanta are out of the playoff picture. Toronto faces a uphill battle, but I won’t count them out yet.

Look where Pittsburgh is only one year after making the Stanley Cup finals. What is going on up there? They recently had a five-game losing streak at home.

They aren’t the only recent memory Stanley Cup final team fallen on hard times. Ottawa who made it in the 06-07 looks to be re-building. How did anyone in Senator management think Alex Doug Auld and Martin Gerber were playoff quality goalies?

Tampa Bay has gotten out of the cellar. Two wins against Florida in late December helped. Will Rick Tocchet still be coaching next season?

Florida has its best record at the half way since the 1999-2000 season, or the last time they went to the playoffs. I had high hopes for Florida last year only to see them dashed. Could they make it this year?

Definitely. The teams immediately ahead of them are beatable. If Florida sneaks in as the 7th or 8th seed, they are most likely to get buzz sawed by Boston or Montreal.(Though Florida does have a good record against Goalie Tim Thomas and are the only NHL team with a lifetime winning record against the Canadians. )

Some miscellaneous Florida notes-

Their defensemen have scored more goals than any other team in the Eastern Conference

Florida has gained at least 1 pt in every game Gregory Campbell has scored in.

Yesterday’s game marked just the 3rd time ever Florida went without a penalty in a game.

Tomas Vokoun now has 201 career wins as a goalie.

Florida has a very good goalie at Rochester that the name eludes me. Would Florida consider a deal for Craig Anderson and bring up the rookie before the season ends? Anderson is a free agent at the end of the year and not expected to be back.

Florida signed a multi-year agreement with Fox Sports Florida which as a result have more Panther games on television.(I got NHL Center Ice too, so I rarely miss a game unless there is no television at all) That’s good news. Now I would like FSN to stop showing upcoming programming promos while play is happening on ice. Those idiotic spinning pucks fill 1/8th of the television screen and often interfere with watching play. Every time I see this crap I feel like screaming at the television.


Capitals outshoot Flyers 48 to 28 but lose 7-1

A .750 save percentage is not very good. From AP-

Scott Hartnell enjoyed a milestone day as the Philadelphia Flyers continued their winning ways at home.

Hartnell scored three goals, Jeff Carter added a pair and Antero Niittymaki stopped a season-high 47 shots as the Flyers snapped the Washington Capitals’ five-game winning streak with a 7-1 victory on Saturday.

Not only did Hartnell record his second hat trick in five games, the veteran left winger scored all of his goals within a span of 11:40 in the third period, the first time he had pulled the trick off in one period.

“It’s been a good couple of weeks,” said Hartnell, who scored three goals in a 6-5 win over Carolina on Dec. 11. “I just want to keep going, stay positive, and stay confident.”

Hartnell, who has five career hat tricks, scored on a scramble to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead at 4:45, hammered in a rebound at 7:29, and poked in a shot from the front of the left circle at 16:25.


Niittymaki, who has started the past three games in place of flu-ridden Martin Biron, was spectacular, especially in the first period when he stopped 25 shots, a Washington record for most shots in one period on the road.


Washington outshot the Flyers 25-6 in the first period, and 48-28 for the game.

Washington is now 20-11-3 for the season. They got a great player in Alexander Ovechkin but I don’t know if the Capitals got enough to make the Stanley Cup. They just didn’t impress me last season even though they ended up winning the Southeast division.

How did that Goalie Washington recalled yesterday do?

Johnson, who allowed three goals on 13 shots, was replaced at the start of the third period by Jose Theodore. He gave up four goals on 15 shots.

As I wrote yesterday- “Team pays tons of money for player who then stinks but team won’t bench or get rid of the player because they paid so much for them in the first place only compounding the original mistake.” See I am a hockey prophet.


Washington Capitals activate G Theodore, Demote NHL rookie

Looks like a classic sports case of “I really screwed up and because of that I will continue to screw up’.* From AP-

Washington Capitals goalie Jose Theodore came off injured reserve Friday, and Simeon Varlamov was assigned back to AHL affiliate Hershey after winning his first two NHL starts in net.

Theodore injured his hip last week and returned to practice Wednesday. He has struggled this season after joining Washington on a $9 million, two-year contract, going 8-6-1 with a 3.08 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.

The 20-year-old Varlamov led the Capitals past the Canadiens 2-1 on Dec. 13 — the first NHL goalie since 1978 to win his debut at Montreal — then helped beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Thursday.

The Russian is 10-3 with a 2.34 GAA at Hershey.

Theodore’s 3.08 GAA is not very good and not at all out of line with how this Goalie has played in his career. Look at Theodore’s stats in Colorado He’s at best a average backup Goalie.

Varlamov has the potential to be a Goalie much better than Theodore. If the Caps were wiser or not afraid to dump a higher priced(4.5 million a year is outrageous for a goalie of Theodore’s quality) veteran player, they would give Varlamov a longer look at the NHL level now. Since Washington is in the same division with the Panthers, I won’t complain too much at the team’s dumb personnel decision.

*- Team pays tons of money for player who then stinks but team won’t bench or get rid of the player because they paid so much for them in the first place only compounding the original mistake.


Washington Capitals sign team’s Web site producer as backup goalie

When are the Miami Dolphins going to give a chance to be their punter. From AP-

A 6-foot-7 Web site producer for the Washington Capitals prepared to dress as the team’s backup goalie for Friday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators because of an injury to Jose Theodore.

Brett Leonhardt, who played Division III hockey in college, signed an amateur tryout contract before the game. If he were to actually get on the ice, he would tie the record for tallest goalie ever to play in an NHL game.

Theodore suffered a hip flexor injury during the Capitals’ morning skate, and Simeon Varlamov was recalled from Hershey, the team’s AHL affiliate, to back up starter Brent Johnson.

But Hershey happened to be on the road in San Antonio, and Varlamov’s plane wasn’t expected to land in the Washington area until close to the 7 p.m. game time.

So the Capitals received special dispensation from the league to dress three goaltenders. Varlamov was to take Leonhardt’s spot on the bench upon arrival.

Leonhardt’s chances of playing weren’t exactly remote. Johnson has a sore hip from a fall during Wednesday night’s victory over the Boston Bruins.

Leonhardt, 26, played two years for Oswego State in New York and two years for Neumann College in Pennsylvania. He has worked for the Capitals’ Web site for about a year and has taken part in drills during practices when the team needed an extra goalie.

Dreams come true. Theodore isn’t that good, maybe Leonhardt can battle him for a job. Getting to be a backup for one night is a miracle in itself.


Washington limits Vancouver to just 10 shots on goal

The Canucks scored a goal in the first 70 seconds and after that it was all down hill.

Washington Capitals goalie Brent Johnson let the Vancouver Canucks’ first shot into his net and finished with only nine saves. The Capitals’ star, reigning league scoring champion Alex Ovechkin, was held without a point.

Sounds like a formula for a Washington loss? No way. That’s because the Capitals broke their franchise record by limiting the Canucks to a total of 10 shots Monday night, Alexander Semin scored twice and Michael Nylander made a penalty shot, lifting Washington to a 5-1 victory.

“After the first five minutes, we were just all over them. They couldn’t get out of their zone,” said Johnson, who didn’t have to work too hard to earn his 100th NHL win. “We do that to every team, and it’s going to be tough to get in our zone and put any pressure on us.”

I checked the early season stats on Washington. The Capitals have allowed 62 shots on goal, or an average of 26 for their other two games. What Johnson said may be correct, but at the same time you got to consider Vancouver is one of the weakest offensive teams in the NHL.


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