Tag:Washington Capitals
Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Mike Richards returns to Philly

By Brian Stubits

Mike Richards the hockey player basically grew up in Philadelphia. He was the centerpiece around which the Flyers were built, their captain by the time he was 23 years old. The next Bobby Clarke, they dubbed him.

Then came last summer, when he was unceremoniously shipped out of town like a package at FedEx. The Flyers had seen the light, and that was the importance of goaltending and defense.

As a result, Richards and his $69 million contract that took effect in 2008-09 were sent to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and cap flexibility. On Saturday night, he'll return to Philly a King. Funny enough, he's back in Philadelphia for a game before even playing in his new home in L.A.

Inquiring minds want to know; what will it be like returning to an arena he once called home, just now as a visitor?

"I try not to think about it as much as possible," Richards said after Thursday's morning skate before the Kings' 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils. "It will be an exciting night once I get there.

"I expect to be nervous. I think that being on the opposite side playing against a lot of great friends ... I spent a lot of time there, a lot of great friends. It was an organization that game me an opportunity to come in the league. I think it's going to be nice to get it over with and turn the page."

Not to mention it's a pretty darn good game, too. Richards just adds some extra theater to it. But when we are looking at the matchup at hand, we have two genuine Stanley Cup contenders here. Los Angeles received one vote to represent the West from the CBSSports.com preseason picks. With Richards' addition, they have two All-Star worthy centers to go with a good young defense.

Philadelphia didn't have as many believers beore the season began, but that was just because nobody truly knew what to expect. If early returns are any indication, however, shipping Richards and fellow young star Jeff Carter (to Columbus) seems to have put in motion a great base behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers are 3-0-0 and have only surrendered five goals.

So yes, from a hockey standpoint, it's a marquee matchup. There's plenty of intrigue from that standpoint alone. But the homecoming King who scored 133 goals and 350 points in a Flyers sweater is the focal point.

"When you think of Mike Richards you think of Philadelphia, so this is certainly a big event for him and for the fans," Kings assistant coach John Stevens said.

You never can be sure with the notorious Philadelphia fans, but I'd expect to see a king's welcome (seriously, that pun wasn't intended) for Richards, at least at first. Once he scores or assists on any L.A. goal, they will treat him the same as any other opponent.

"I enjoyed playing in front of them every night and was excited to play in front of them," he said. "And I will be excited to play in front of them on Saturday."

Homeward bound

There are still seven teams that have yet to play their home-openers, but a few will finally take to the home ice this weekend. The Sabres will return to Buffalo to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night after a very successful trip to Europe. The city is so jacked up for Sabres hockey right now, that place (who knows what name the arena is going by now?) will be rocking.

Anaheim is also back Stateside after exploring Europe. The Ducks host the Sharks, who have somehow only played one game up to this point.

The Florida Panthers will debut their new all-red arena (and their red jerseys) against the instrastate rival Lightning on Saturday night. The two will play a home-and-home that concludes on Monday with the Bolts showing off their revamped arena for the first time.

The New York Rangers and Kings will remain as road warriors for a bit longer. L.A. doesn't return home until the 18th while New York is traveling all the way until October. 27 when it hosts Toronto at a slightly renovated Madison Square Garden.

Jets past and present

The one other team that has yet to play a game in front of the home crowd, Phoenix, will do so on Saturday. It should be interesting, too.

The Coyotes will host the Jets in what is instantly an awkward rivalry. It sort of feels like domestic abuse. The former Jets who are now the Coyotes meet the current Jets who were once the Thrashers. There is no real animosity to speak of between the two teams, but a lot of folks in the 'Peg still hold a grudge against the Coyotes, even if they have a team back to help close that wound.

Here's the oddity of the weekend: Shane Doan will play against his former team even though he has never left the organization that drafted him. Huh? Of course we're taking some liberties with relocation here, but Doan is originally a Jet, playing 74 games in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix and becoming a career Coyote.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!

You just have to love Saturday's in the NHL. You are almost always guaranteed your favorite team will be playing, but if not, you will have plenty of other games to choose from. This Saturday, 28 of the league's 30 teams will be in action.

Only the Hurricanes and the Ducks have the night off.

Still standing

There are still are still six teams in the NHL that have yet to lose (yes, I'm counting OT losses as losses, imagine that). The Flyers, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks all remain unblemished. In the case of the Sharks and Sabres, they'll have to do double duty to remain perfect come Monday.

Best chance for a loss? Have to think it's Buffalo in Pittsburgh with Detroit visiting the Wild next on the list.

On the flip side

Of course, there are still some teams looking for a win, too. The Rangers, Jets and Blue Jackets are yet to experience the thrill of victory. In the case of the Jets, they remain pointless going into the weekend.

Fun with numbers

Small sample sizes create fun little stats such as James Neal of the Penguins leading the NHL in goals (with four in five games), the Senators' Erik Karlsson ahead in assists with six and the Predators' David Legwand in front for points at seven. Even with the small sample size distorting things, did anybody foresee a Predator near the top of an offensive category?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:07 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 4:02 pm
 

Asham won't receive punishment from NHL for taunt

By Brian Stubits

In an email to the Washington Times NHL spokeman John Dellapina says the NHL won't hand down any further punishment for Arron Asham for his post-fight gestures on Thursday night.

"While nobody liked the gestures, they simply did not violate the rules as currently written (Rule 75.2 (i) which calls for a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for 'any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person,'"

In case you somehow missed it, Asham stepped up to challenge the Capitals' Jay Beagle to a fight after taking exception to a hit Beagle laid on the Penguins' Kris Letang. Despite never dropping his gloves in an NHL game before and Asham being a veteran of the tussel, Beagle obliged. Once Asham got his right hand free, it was two punches square to Beagle's face and a bloody mess on the ice.

What drew the ire of some, though, was Asham's arm waving and go to sleep sign with his hands. It didn't take long for him to realize the severity of the situation, however, and seemed almost immediately repentant. When Beagle was helped off the ice, Asham was seen tapping his stick against the glass from the penalty box showing his support.

He was further apologetic after the game, calling his own actions classless and uncalled for.

I'm glad that the NHL isn't going to throw any discipline Asham's way for this. I don't disagree that it was an ugly display from Asham, but his repentance seemed genuine to me. It was a heat-of-the-moment thing that was simply not sportsmanlike. Any additional punishment will come from the Capitals the next time the two teams meet. That's old time hockey.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:04 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:14 am
 

Asham, Beagle fight overshadows Capitals win



By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- Even though the climate surrounding the fighting in hockey debate is as hot as it's ever been, there's no denying that the vast majority of ticket-buying fans still absolutely, positively love its presence in the league. It's one of the few moments that takes place during a game -- any game -- that brings the crowd out of its seats.

Take Thursday's game in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and Capitals, a 3-2 Washington overtime victory, as an example. The loudest, most extended cheer of the night wasn't reserved for one James Neal's two goals, one of which tied the game with less than five minutes to play in regulation, but for  Penguins forward Arron Asham dropping Jay Beagle in a fight, delivering two huge blows to his face, apparently knocking him out, and leaving a small pool of blood on the Consol Energy Center Ice.

The fight itself, a mismatch between Asham, a veteran of over 60 regular season fights in his NHL career (via Hockeyfights.com), and Beagle, who has participated in just one regular season fight in his 43 NHL games, would have been noteworthy simply for the way it ended; a player getting knocked out and apparently removing a piece of tooth as he skated to the bench. It will probably get even more attention for the two gestures Asham made as he skated toward the penalty box (as shown in the above video).

The fight started after Beagle gave Penguins defenseman Kris Letang a jab to the face along the boards, with Asham coming to the defense of his teammate.

Following the game Asham said the gestures were uncalled for and classless, and that he was caught up in the moment.  Mike Knuble, who scored a goal in the second period, extending his personal point streak to 13 games against the Penguins, said that he believes Asham, who was a teammate of his during their time in Philadelphia, is an "honest player" and was simply "doing his job."

"You hate to see your teammate go down," said Knuble. "Arron's doing his job, I've played with him before and he's an honest player. He's tremendous at what he does and he did what he felt that he had to do."

"Jay got popped a good one," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. "He was playing a really good game I thought and he challenged a pretty tough customer, and a guy that's used to fighting. Jay's not that used to fighting and he got tagged a good one."

Boudreau also said he did not see Asham's post-fight gesture, and while he was seen discussing something with the officials immediately after the incident, he said that he was asking about the distance Asham traveled to engage in the fight and what the referee's interpretation of the rule (presumably the instigator rule) was.

And that's what this night will mostly be remembered for as it becomes another chapter in the fierce rivalry between the two teams, one that dates back to the 1990's when both clubs were reguarly facing each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both players received five-minute majors for fighting, while Beagle was also penalized for the shot he gave Letang prior to the fight, leaving the Capitals shorthanded, which was nothing new on this night.

The Penguins owned a commanding 41-19 edge in the shots department for the game, aided by the fact they had five power plays in regulation to Washington's zero. In the first and third periods alone the Penguins dominated the shot chart 12-3 and 18-3 respectively. It wasn't until overtime when the Capitals saw their first man-advantage of the evening when Penguins forward Jordan Staal was sent off for tripping at the 2:04 mark of the extra period. Just 44 seconds later Dennis Wideman scored the game-winner.

Tomas Vokoun, the subject of much debate over the first two games of the season due to not being in the opening night lineup and his rough debut in the following game, did his part to silence his doubters by helping to keep the Capitals in the game and giving them a chance to win, stopping 39 of the 41 shots he faced throughout the night.

"He was the difference for us," said Knuble. "Even in that first period, we finished 1-0 we could have easily been three or four. He made some big saves in the third period too when they started to push back a little. He was a big factor tonight." 

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Daily Skate: Sabres being careful with Hecht

By Brian Stubits

HECHT OUT: The Buffalo Sabres will be without Jochen Hecht, who suffered a concussion until at least next week as the team is being especially careful with him considering he has a history of concussions. He will be out at least through Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. (Sabres Edge)

GO FISH: Speak of concussions, Capitals GM George McPhee and member of the NHL and NHLPA concussion working group, talked about them recently. Noting that of course you have to be concerned about the players, a non-physical game just isn't as entertaining. “If you go to Europe … it’s not very entertaining. It’s highly skilled, but it’s like trying to watch two guys fish.” (Washington Times)

ROLOSON THANKS SNOW: Dwayne Roloson returns to Long Island to face the Islanders for the first time since he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. And the 42-year-old took the time to say thanks to GM Garth Snow. "When I signed, Garth told me the situation and to his credit he stuck to his word, that when we were out of the playoffs, he would trade me. Very appreciative of what he did" (ESPN New York)

SERGE OF MOTIVATION: The boo birds have found a target of Sergei Gonchar in Ottawa. Unhappy with his performance, the Senators fans have let him know. His coach Paul MacLean suggests he uses it to his advantage. “I’ve been booed, so it’s something that you ... I think it’s a motivator. If your fans are unhappy with how you play, they should express that they’re unhappy with how you play. Conversely, if you play better, they should appreciate that you play better and to me, it’s just a signal that you need to be better.” (Senators Exra

THE UNTOUCHABLES: Here is a list compiled of the 10 most untradeable contracts in the NHL. Not surprisingly it starts with Rick DiPietro. But after seeing Brian Campbell change addresses this summer makes me think in this this era of a salary cap floor, no contract is untradeable. (The Hockey News)

FISHER STORY: Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators is very open about his strong religious faith. He has said in the past one thing he likes about being in Nashville as opposed to Ottawa is the amount of churches. Last summer he came out with a book Defender of Faith about his story. Here's a little more from Fisher on how it came about. (Predators Insider)

BROTHER BOND: When the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to a military camp for a team-bonding retreat, it made defenseman John-Micheal Liles think of his brother stationed in Washington state with the U.S. Navy. Here's a good story on the strong relationship the brothers have. (Globe and Mail)

STROME SENT DOWN: It's about the time of the season where a lot of the rookies who were getting extended looks out of camp are going to be returned to their junior teams beore contracts kick in. That's what the Islanders did with their first pick in this summer's draft, Ryan Strome. (Islanders team site)

MURPHY TOO: The Carolina Hurricanes did the same with their top pick, sending diminutive Ryan Murphy back to Kitchener of the OHL. In Murphy's case, he had been a healthy scratch in the team's four regular-season games, so it seemed pointless to continue to leave him up. (Hurricanes team site)

GABRIEL'S GOAL: One first-round pick who won't be returning to his junior squad is Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog. The No. 2 pick in the draft scored his first NHL goal (video below) on Wednesday night in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he talked to Adrian Dater about it afterward. (All Things Avs)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Daily Skate: Canucks won't forget Methot's hit

By Brian Stubits

METHOT MARKED: The Canucks played in Columbus on Monday night and during the game Henrik Sedin took a hard check into the boards from the Blue Jackets' Marc Methot. While he didn't get any supplementary discipline from the NHL for the hit, there could be more waiting from Vancouver down the line. Kevin Bieksa says a few Canucks tried to challenge Methot to a fight to no avail, so he had this to say afterward: "Hank's a tough guy and he'll take that for the team. But we'll remember that." (Vancouver Sun)

PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY: When Daniel Carcillo arrived in Chicago for his introductory press conference, he decided to fit right in and take some shots at Vancouver, including Tanner Glass, saying he'd "keep them in check" this season. Problem is, Glass is with the Jets now. "He should probably figure out what team I’m on before he starts doing stuff like that. The funny thing is, I’ve asked him to fight before, and he said no. It’s kind of surprising that he called me out in the media. I have no pre-existing relationship with him. He’s a donkey; everyone knows he’s a donkey, that’s just his thing." (Illegal Curve)

SALAK BACK: Speaking of the Blackhawks, they recalled Alexander Salak from the AHL on Wednesday. Corey Crawford had missed the previous two days of practice, but on Wednesday he was back and Ray Emery wasn't present. Interesting goings ons in Chicago. (CSN Chicago)

SPOT PRACTICE START: I just love these stories. The Capitals had to sit out Michal Neuvirth in practice on Wednesday for what Bruce Boudreau called a lower body injury (he is available for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh, coach said). Since you kind of need two goalies, they got PR man Sergey Kocharov to fill in. (Capitals Watch)

BACK TO THE TANK: The San Jose Sharks are moving their next few practices to the HP Pavilion, where they play their games. The idea? Coach Todd McLellan wants his team to get used to the new boards and glass so they can keep their home-ice advantage. Good thinking. (Working the Corners)

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET: That is one way to desribe Phil Kessel's shot. Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer talks about the invisible shot that is so quick of his team's All-Star forward. He sounds glad to be on the other side of the ice. (Toronto Sun)

TO BOO OR NOT TO BOO? That is the question begging Senators fans about Sergei Gonchar. There is no question in this blogger's mind Gonchar deserves it for his indifference in Ottawa to start the season. (Silver Sens)

NYSTROM CLEARS: The Minnesota Wild placed Eric Nystrom on waivers last week then put him on re-entry waivers on Tuesday. Both times he cleared. So even at half price, nobody was willing to take a shot on the 28-year-old who had just four goals and a minus-16 last season. (Russo's Rants)

CHANT ALONG: Finally, as a request by @CoachBlueweiss after yesterday's Daily Skate item about the Maple Leafs' (and others') new goal song, here is some love to the Islanders' for this year, a little diddy called Crowd Chant by Joe Satriani. Not bad.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.



Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Capitals debut hardly smooth for Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- As far as first impressions go, this one was way down the list.

Tomas Vokoun played his first game with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday against the Lightning, and, well, it was ugly. But don't take my word for it. Take Vokoun's, who still got credit for the win despite giving up five goals on 28 Lightning shots.

“I can’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight,” Vokoun said. "It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won today without goaltending. We won the game ... certainly not thanks to me.”

The night got off to a rather ominous start. Vokoun surrendered a goal before every actually facing a shot from the opposition. The Bolts' first "shot" of the night was a centering pass from behind the goal line from Teddy Purcell that bounced right off Caps defenseman Mike Green's skates and in. Not much he could do there.

The second goal, though? Again, beat from behind the goal line, this time the puck squeezing in on his near side. It was ugly. At that point you could already hear the fans inside Verizon Center asking "THIS is the guy that's supposed to lead us to the Cup?"

After a few more Tampa Bay goals -- in Vokoun's defense, there were a couple of nice deflections from the Lightning and another time a man sat on his doorstep in the crease unmanned -- it got to the point that the crowd couldn't help itself anymore. A puck came trickling into the zone and Vokoun calmly shuffled it on to a defenseman, leading to a nice sarcastic ovation from the Caps faithful.

“Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me,” Vokoun said. “Every time I thought something’s going to happen, the exact opposite [happened]. Sometimes you go through games like that.”

But Vokoun ended up redeeming himself. When it came time for the OT -- thanks to a late Jason Chimera tally, his second of the game -- he was spectacular. He helped the Capitals kill off time on the 4-on-3 and then stonewalled Tampa Bay's only two attemps in the shootout and totally redeemed himself. Or at least saved face.

“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness top lay like that. And then in the overtime when you’re having four-on-three against you and you make those three or four huge saves. I got to believe if it was me, I would have been so mentally out of it… and he comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”

But in the world of first impressions, this one wasn't the best. Coming on the heels of his agent saying the decision to start Michal Neuvirth in the opening game was a slap in the face? That's a little bit of a whole to dig out of. So long as he's as good as he was when it mattered most, that shouldn't be a problem.

“I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they need me.”

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 9:55 pm
 

Vokoun's agent speaks out on goalie situation

TV1By: Adam Gretz

When it was reported on Friday afternoon that Michal Neuvirth, and not Tomas Vokoun, would be the opening night goaltender for the Washington Capitals you had to expect some sort of controversy to build, and it didn't take long for that to happen.

Allan Walsh, the agent for Vokoun, told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times Friday evening that coach Bruce Boudreau's decision "could be perceived as a slap in the face" to the 35-year-old goaltender who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals this summer.

It's been an interesting situation to watch from the start as it was widely assumed that Vokoun would be the No. 1 starter due to his recent track record with the Florida Panthers. Neuvirth, however, refused to concede the job that he perceived to be his and talked multiple times about how he planned to keep his spot as the starter. And for at least one night -- the first night of the season -- he did.

More from the Times:
To Vokoun’s agent, it was not only a surprise but it also could be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Allan Walsh told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Friday night that his client was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“He was told he was coming into Washington as the No. 1 goalie,” Walsh told The Times. “They were very public in their comments about that. … There’s a certain symbolism attached to who starts the first game of the season at home. It doesn’t mean he’s not a No. 1 goalie. But this can certainly be perceived as a slap in the face."

Walsh, who is no stranger to taking to Twitter and social media to speak up for his clients, also added that "all around the league, the No. 1 goalie on teams is starting on opening night." And that's how your controversy starts. For now, anyway. Earlier this week Boudreau said that he considers the two players to be "1 and 1B" when it comes to their standing on the depth chart, and anytime you're dealing with two players that are capable of being the starter -- and both of these guys are -- somebody is going to have to swallow some pride every now and take the occassional seat.

Plus, most teams like to get both goalies a start as early as possible at the beginning of the season, and the Capitals' next two games after the opener are against Tampa Bay, their top competition within the Division, and Pittsburgh, their top competition within the conference. It should be interesting to see which goalie gets the call in those two games.

If it's Vokoun, this whole thing likely blows over and becomes much ado about nothing. If it's Neuvirth? Things might get interesting.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 4:03 pm
 

Neuvirth to start Capitals opener, not Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

Perhaps the biggest of the Capitals offseason acquisition was the steal of Tomas Vokoun for only $1.5 million. So naturally he's starting the season opener, right? Wrong.

The Capitals threw a minor curveball on Friday by announcing that Michal Neuvirth, not Vokoun, will start the season opener Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I just found out after practice, and, yeah, I was a little surprised," Neuvirth said after Friday's practice. "I think I had a great training camp and had very good preseason games and probably that's why I'm playing tomorrow."

The news was actually broken by Vokoun himself. When asked if he was at all nervous about Friday's game, he responded honestly.

“No, I'm not really nervous because I'm not playing,” Vokoun said. “Supposedly I'm going to play the next game.

"Certainly, it's a surprise," Vokoun told CSN Washington. "It's not my decision. Sometimes you like [those decisions], sometimes you don't like them. We haven't even played a game yet, so it's premature to be upset. It's not a good feeling, but I've played hockey for 30 years. Things happen."

He says he's not upset about it yet, but it seems clear he's not happy.

Since the Caps signed Vokoun, coach Bruce Boudreau has made no bones about it: Vokoun is his starting goaltender. Neuvirth took a majority of the starts last year, splitting the duties with Semyon Varlamov, now with the Avalanche. But Vokoun has experience, a history of success -- but not in the playoffs -- and the endorsement from management on his side.

Dare we say this is the beginning of a controversy in Washington? It's still too early to answer that question. But it certainly seems unusual to start your backup goalie on opening night ... at home no less. Not the best way to start the relationship with Vokoun for Boudreau.

Neuvirth did play very well this preseason, going 2-1-0 with a .949 save percentage and 1.35 goals against average and perhaps Boudreau is just honoring for that. But that won't quiet the questions.

Bombshell? Not exactly. But surprising? For that it qualifies.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com