Last Cap Standing (Between the Pipes): Washington’s Playoff Dreams in Holtby’s Hands

To say that it’s been an interesting season for the Washington Capitals hockey club this year would be a drastic understatement. After coming out of the gates red hot, winning their first seven straight games, the Caps slowed down considerably shortly thereafter. They struggled with two, 4-game losing streaks in the month of November alone, firing head coach Bruce Boudreau during the tail end of the second of these. The remainder of the season was rather marginal, and void of any serious excitement, unless you consider disappointing performances by their top players riveting stuff. But lately, the end of the season has been a bit less dull, albeit in a still slightly unfavorable way.

Having just barely ousted the Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff spot with their victory against the Panthers, and subsequently taking the 7 seed out from under Ottawa, the Caps almost made it to the end of the regular season in relatively good health. That is until Michal Neuvirth went down with a leg injury just five minutes into the second period of the penultimate regular season game against Florida. The injury to Neuvirth came just one week after Tomas Vokoun reinjured his groin in the Caps March 29th game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Now, unless either Tomas Vokoun or Michal Neuvirth can find a bowflex treadclimber to hop on to help with a quick rehabilitation, it looks like rookie goaltender Braden Holtby will be carrying the team into the playoffs on his young shoulders this month. Holtby looked solid in the Caps 4-1 victory on Saturday night against the Eastern Conference’s No.1 seed NY Rangers, and the club looks for him to continue with that level of play in his first playoff appearance against the Boston Bruins later this month.

With a wild regular season now behind them, the Washington Capitals can at least breath a short sigh of relief. But with their top two goalies out and a rookie goaltender with 0 NHL playoff experience between the pipes, one can expect some more wild goings-on from the Washington Capitals in the near future. Heck, at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if they won it all.

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Eric Belanger eschews appearance, reinforces hockey player stereotypes

Washington Capitals’ forward Eric Belanger took a high stick straight to the kisser on Friday night during his team’s 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a motivational moment where we can all realize that we needn’t dress up and put gel in our hair when hitting the town during a hot weekend night. Instead, we should roll up our sleeves and attempt to beat the living daylights out of someone twice our size — that behemoth at the bar making nice with the girl you’ve had your eyes on since you stepped through the door. It’s your time time shine: You pound your Jameson like it’s the sweet water that it is, dropping a creased dollar into the acorn glass for the tip, and then sidling up next to your oblivious opponent who’s now whispering weightless compliments into your lady’s ear. You throw a haymaker, but it’s caught, not by your opponent, but by some invisible grip from the ether. You turn around — it’s the bouncer. Your plan is imploding, and you hope to be simply shown the door. But in an instant of improbable misfortune, the bouncer shows extra remorse for the brute, and allows him one free punch. You close your eyes, and somehow conjure a hint of bravery, whether from the slug of Jameson or legitimate adrenaline, you don’t know. The punch comes, and it’s with a force so miserable and heart-breaking you wouldn’t mind giving up the ghost right then and there. On the wavy and sweat-soaked floor, you turn to your side. A tooth — a molar you think — is lying at your feet. You’ve been cold-clocked, humiliated, but it was worth it. You tried. A qualified victory you’ll call it…

But in all seriousness, this is like icky gross! You’re telling me that once you lose a tooth as an adult it doesn’t grow back? Nooo! You’d have to get a fixed bridge or a dental implant or something? Forget that. I’ll never play hockey.

2009 NHL Preview: Washington Capitals

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the Washington Capitals…

Team Play: ISSUE – Reloading… There is a not so quiet excitement building in Washington for the start of the new season. Optimism is evident at player, coach and management level, and in the fans who will attend the 41+ sold out games this season. Any frustrations at their Conference Semi-Finals departure last season are now replaced by thoughts of chalking it up to completing another step toward the ultimate goal of raising The Stanley Cup. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hungry and capable squad.

The early Fox Sports depth chart for the Capitals indicates a No. 1 line of Ovechkin- Backstrom- Semin from left to right, and Laich- Morrison- Knuble on No. 2. We think it will actually be Ovechkin- Backstrom- Knuble No. 1 and Laich- Morrison- Semin as No. 2. The No. 1 pairing scored 7 G’s and 7 A’s in the pre-season, and No. 2 combined to chip in 3 G’s and 8 A’s. Fourteen and eleven points? In pre-season? We know – suspect matchups against a lot of guys trying to make it into the NHL. But any way you slice these two pairings, it serves as an indicator that they will put up some good numbers for this club. Of interest to Caps fans is the No. 3 and 4 lines. As of 28 September, Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux were amongst the cuts, leaving Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing up with the squad for opening night. And there’s also the Nylander Factor – as in not factored into any pre-season games + statements of deep desire to play + a $4.875M cap hit might just = a depth roster slot, especially due to injuries.

The top two pairings listed on defense are Green-Jurcina and Poti-Pothier. Based on last season’s play, the top blue line pair projects at approximately 103 points playing a full 82-game schedule. That’s with the big IF Mike Green produces 70+ points again this season. This is better than several forward trios on 3rd and 4th lines. You can forget the dearth of scoring in the pre-season for the first pair (a lone A for Green) as they saw limited game time. Line No. 2 was good for 1 G and 4 A’s in September and should be able to be counted upon for about a point every other game. For those waiting with baited breath, Karl Alzner was again a victim of late training camp cuts on 28 September, but look for an injury call up if required.

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

Steroid dealer claims he sold to Nationals, Capitals players

A central Florida man who was charged Tuesday with several counts of possession of illegal steroids and firearms is claiming that he has sold performance-enhancing drugs to Washington Nationals and Capitals players.

Richard Thomas boasted about selling steroids to professional baseball, hockey and football players, saying, “You name the sport, and I’ve sold steroids to athletes who play it,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities said Thomas didn’t name specific players, and they have no evidence he sold to members of those teams.

Investigators who searched Thomas’ house in Lakeland on Tuesday recovered thousands of anabolic steroid pills, injectable liquids and syringes with an estimated wholesale value of $100,000, said Carrie Eleazer, a spokeswoman with the sheriff’s office. They also found several weapons, including loaded semiautomatic handguns.

Capitals players passed three rounds of drug tests during each of the past two seasons, and neither the team nor officials from the National Hockey League had reason to believe Thomas’s claims, the league and the team said in a joint release Wednesday.

A spokesman for Major League Baseball, which also randomly tests for steroids, said the organization is looking into the matter. A message seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned by the Nationals.

Thomas told detectives he imported steroids from all around the world, including Iran, Pakistan, Slovakia, Russia, China, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and Germany. The sheriff’s office said both Thomas and his wife were semiprofessional body builders, and that he claimed to be the largest steroids dealer in central Florida.

“He was very boastful,” Eleazer said.

Well this certainly sounds like a fine, upstanding and trustworthy individual. There’s no way he could have made all of this up just to get his name in the paper and possibly be a part of the massive drug scandal that continues to affect professional sports now could he?

Maybe he did sell to Nats and Caps players, but as the article notes, there’s no evidence at this point that proves that he did and until there is, he’s just a poser looking for his name in the headlines. Well he won’t fool me………..crap, I’m writing about him aren’t I?

Pens heading to Cup, Wings next?

The Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Finals after beating the Hurricanes 4-1 on Tuesday night and sweeping the best of seven Eastern Conference Finals series. The Pens will now await the winner of the Blackhawks-Red Wings series, which Detroit currently leads 3-1.

After battling the Capitals for seven games in the semifinals, some pundits believed that the Penguins might be worn down for their series against the Canes. But Pittsburgh put those doubts to rest when it took the first two games on its home ice and then crushed the Canes 6-2 in Carolina in Game 3. Game 4 Tuesday night turned out to just be a formality as Carolina struggled offensively.

Now the Pens will wait to see if the Red Wings can finish off the Blackhawks tonight at Joe Lewis Arena. If Chicago plays as bad tonight as it did in Game 4 on Sunday, then the Stanley Cup Finals could kickoff this weekend.

Making matters worse for the Blackhawks, the Wings could get both Nicklas Lindstrom and Pavel Datsyuk back from injury tonight. Detroit coach Mike Babock won’t make a decision on their playing status until each get the opportunity to skate in pregame, but chances are both players will be on the ice tonight.

If the Wings do finish off the Hawks, they would set up a rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, in which they beat the Penguins in six games. Some hockey fans wanted to see a new matchup, but it’s hard to beat the drama that comes from watching Sidney Crosby try to take on the juggernaut that continues to be the Detroit Red Wings.

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