Tag:Washington Capitals
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Bruins and Canucks meet again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Vancouver to start Schneider over Luongo

The Boston Bruins are out-of-this-world good. Six times this season they have beaten their opponent by at least five goals. That includes Thursday's 9-0 rout of the Calgary Flames.

On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.

To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.

Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.

It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.

These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.

It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.

Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”

There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.

The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.

Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”

It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.

The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.

Mr. 499

I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.

He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.

Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.

"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."

Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.

In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.

Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.

"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.

Capitalizing

One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.

They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.

But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.

Boom! Madden's debut

The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.

Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.

That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.

I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.

More Wings work

It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.

On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.

Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.

Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.

We're going streaking!

Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts keep on winning, taking a three-game streak into Friday's matchup with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders: The Isles make the list this week, and it's on the good side! A three-game win streak is on the line at the Ducks on Friday and then the Coyotes on Saturday.

Ottawa Senators: The quietest of the NHL's surprise teams, the Senators have a four-game run going into the home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Sunday.

Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.

Colorado Avalanche: The up-and-down Avs are playing well again, having won three straight. They have a tough Friday-Saturday road trip of at the Blackhawks and at the Blues.

Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.

Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.

Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 4, 2012 7:28 pm
 

Rene Bourque suspended 5 games



By: Adam Gretz

For the second time this season Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque has been suspended by the NHL, and this time it's for his elbow to the head of Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom during the third period of Washington's 3-1 win on Tuesday night.

He had a disciplinary hearing early on Wednesday, and later in the day it was announced by NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan that Bourque will miss Calgary's next five games. He was banished earlier in the season for two games for boarding Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Said Shanahan, "Backstrom is carrying the puck up the middle of the ice as Bourque pivots and pursues Backstrom, Backstrom makes a pass to Mike Knuble on his right. Bourque continues his path and throws an elbow, making principal of contact with Backstrom's jaw. This a hit to the head and a clear violation of rule 48."

Shanahan also added that he believed Bourque's argument that his elbow was an "instinctive" reflex as opposed to an attempt to injure. He also added that it was "reckless" and "indefensible." Bourque's two-game suspension for hitting Seabrook, which occurred less than a month ago making him a repeat offender, as well as the fact that Backstrom removed himself from the game after his condition became worse. He's currently listed as being day-to-day.

In 38 games this season Bourque has scored 13 goals to go with three assists. He will miss games against Boston, Minnesota, New Jersey, Anaheim and Los Angeles. He will be eligible to return to the Flames lineup on Tuesday, Jan. 17 when the Flames travel to San Jose to take on the Sharks.

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 4, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:47 pm
 

Jackets' Dorsett says Ovechkin spit in his face

By Brian Stubits

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Derek Dorsett is a known agitator, one of those pesky players. He can get under opponents' skin. Or hit with their saliva.

In the Blue Jackets' New Year's Eve home loss to the Washington Capitals, Dorsett was seen getting angry with Caps captain Alex Ovechkin after a little dustup between the two in the second period. Each player was given a minor (Dorsett for cross-checking, roughing for Ovechkin). Dorsett proceeded to yap at Ovechkin in the boxes and after their penalties. Why?

“I haven’t told many people this but he spit in my face,” Dorsett told Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch. “That got me a little more mad.”

He explained that the spitting happened during the aforementioned dustup.

“That’s why I was yelling at the ref so much and yelling at him in the penalty box,” Dorsett said. “I find that pretty disrespectful. That’s probably one of the most disrespectful things someone can do, especially a guy who is the best player in the league. It’s classless. He’s supposed to be a role model for the game. It’s unbelievable.”

That's a pretty serious accusation. I mean, nothing would likely come from it without video evidence other than damage to Ovechkin's already polarizing image, but spitting on somebody else is a no-no, particularly in sports. Just look what it did to Roberto Alomar's career when he spit on an umpire over a called strike.

On Wednesday Ovechkin denied the accusation at the Capitals' practice.

"No, no, no," Ovechkin told the Washington Post. "I don't know. Show me that moment, I want to see it. No."

This didn't come to light without Dorsett saying as much, which leads me to believe that there's no video of this. Somebody with a keen eye would have seen it during the broadcast and would have already been a viral video. So it's going to just come down to Dorsett's words against Ovechkin's.

Here is video of the dustup when Dorsett claims Ovechkin spit on him, courtesy of Deadspin. You sure can't see anything flying from Ovechkin but you do notice how upset Dorsett is as he yells at the officials.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:23 am
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:48 pm
 

Rene Bourque has hearing for elbowing Backstrom

By Brian Stubits

While we await Brendan Shanahan's verdict of one repeat offender's actions in Daniel Carcillo, he added another repeat offender to the list of pending suspensions on Tuesday.

Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque seemed to go out of his way in Tuesday night's game against the Washington Capitals to hit Caps leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom. Despite the puck being up the ice already and it happening behind the play, Bourque gave Backstrom an elbow anyway. To the head. And it's all that he gave him.

The result was a two-minute minor for elbowing, Backstrom having to be evaluated after the game -- though he did play after the hit -- and a hearing being scheduled for Wednesday with Shanahan.

Here are some replays of the hit for you to judge for yourself.

It goes without saying that the Capitals are probably holding their breath right now regarding Backstrom's health. He has been their best and most consistent player this season, an easy pick to go to the All-Star Game representing the Capitals. He assisted on all three of Washington's goals in the 3-1 victory.

“We removed him from the game, it was precautionary,” coach Dale Hunter said on Tuesday night. “He was getting evaluated right now. We’ll know more tomorrow.”

On Wednesday, Hunter called Backstrom day to day.

As to the repeat offender status, Bourque was given a two-game suspension earlier this season from Shanahan for a boarding hit on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

After the game, Bourque told the Washington Post that he wasn't even really aware if anything had happened.

"Did it look really bad? Was he hurt? I didn't even know if I clipped him," Bourque said. "I didn't even know if I hit him in the head."

Well, he did hit him in the head. So now we all know what comes next. Bourque, who has 13 goals and three assists on the season, will be banished to the corner for a timeout for a couple of games.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 3, 2012 12:04 pm
 

Caps getting Mike Green back for Flames game

By Brian Stubits

Things are starting to turn around for the Washington Capitals, it seems.

The Caps ended 2011 with a run of three consecutive wins, their first such stretch since the season-opening seven-game win streak. Now they are going to start 2012 with one of their most important players back, defenseman Mike Green.

Judging by the fact that the Capitals are 8-0-0 this season when Green plays, it's not a stretch to call him arguably the team's MVP. He isn't the sole reason why they are unbeaten when he plays, but it sure helps matters. The Capitals will welcome his three goals and three assists in just eight games this season on the blue line.

“Finally,” Green said after Tuesday's morning skate. “It’s been frustrating sitting out and obviously a couple months ago coming back and then the first game back, back on the press box. I’m just happy to be back, focused. Preparing to do the right things tonight and that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”

As I said, his return from a groin injury that has kept him out since Veteran's Day comes at a moment right when the Caps appear to be finding their footing and showing everybody why they were pegged as a Stanley Cup contender. Alex Ovechkin, who was behind even last year's career-low paces until recently, has found his touch. He has four goals in the last two games. He has six goals in his last six games, including three straight multi-point games, his first since Nov. 4.

But the Caps won't be showing off their full complement of players on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames in D.C. One player who will not be on the ice is Alex Semin, who is currently listed as day to day. He, too, has picked it up recently since the Ovechkin, Semin and Nicklas Backstrom line was reunited. He has five goals and four assists in the last seven games.

Instead, coach Dale Hunter is going to suit seven defensemen, a rarity for the Caps under Bruce Boudreau. But it makes sense, there's no telling how Green is going to play and what type of minutes he can give the team. Good to have some insurance on the bench.

“I think you’ve got to ease yourself in,” Green said. “I’m not going to be jumping up all over the ice or whatnot. I think it’s important for me to get my game back and it’s better that I do that slowly rather than quickly. I don’t intend on being up and down the ice tonight.”

Sounds like some defensive insurance on the bench is a pretty good idea.

Hopefully for the Capitals and Green, he can stay healthy this time. That's been a bug-a-boo for him recently. In addition to the groin injury he is recovering from, Green missed time earlier this season with a twisted ankle and fought a concussion through much of last season.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:21 am
 

Caps owner: Winter Classic won't be D.C.'s in '13

By Brian Stubits

Before the Winter Classic was finished in Philadelphia on Monday, the speculation was running in the press box of Citizen's Bank Park: Where will the next Winter Classic be?

After the game, Gary Bettman said the NHL had not put together a short list but judging from past Winter Classics -- i.e. temperature, time zone, TV draw -- you can get an idea of where they might look to.

One of those places, it was assumed, was Washington D.C. It has been out there that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was essentially promised a winter event coming to D.C. in the near future so many speculated it would be next year. Speculation over: it's not happening.

In his personal blog, Leonsis addressed the matter on Tuesday, also talking about the possibility of a game being played on the National Mall, the strip of landmarks that stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial and Reflecting Pool in between.

So – to set the record straight – there has NOT been any communication to us on a formal basis as to a Winter Classic coming to DC in a specific year. I have been told that the Winter Classic will NOT be coming to DC next year though. I have also been assured that because of the size of our fan base – and the beauty of our city – that a Winter Classic would come to Washington DC; at some point in the future. And that is good enough for me.

Also– the idea of a game being played on the Mall has been floated around for many years – it is NOT feasible; there aren’t enough common areas to build out seats – and the expense involved to create locker rooms; icestands and studios are prohibitive. The Mall is managed by the National Park Services; as well.

I am sure that one day – when a Winter Classic does come to DC; we will be creative and have fun and put on a great show. There are great venues for us to utilize and great theatre that we can create for NHL fans and our large fan base here in the DMV.

I guess that takes care of that one, now doesn't it? The D.C. Classic will have to wait longer but there is still a definite vibe it will happen. It's just too bad the Mall can't be done, that would make for an unbeatable setting.

The rumor that was picking up steam before Leonsis' posting was that Detroit is the favorite to host the next game, a good bet to be sure. There is even some talk being thrown out there that the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the opponent, a somewhat surprising idea since the Winter Classic has shown to be an American event designed to draw interest in the USA and garner ratings. Personally, I never thought having a big-market Canadian team would hurt but it didn't seem to appeal to the NHL.

Could they host it at the Big House, the University of Michigan's football stadium? Of course they could, the stadium has held more than 100,000 people in the past for a hockey game. However, don't forget that Red Wings owner Mike Illitch also owns the Detroit Tigers and he'd have a lot of say in the event being played at one of his team's venues, Comerica Park.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 30, 2011 10:23 pm
 

Sabres coach Ruff: Ehrhoff likely to be out weeks

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- The Buffalo Sabres are having troubles scoring in recent weeks. That continued in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Friday night.

It's going to be a little tougher now after the loss of offensive defenseman Christian Ehrhoff due to an "upper-body injury."

Ehrhoff engaged in a shoving match with Capitals forward Troy Brouwer at 16:49 of the first period that led to a fight. It wasn't much in the way of swinging but instead grabbing and headlocks. But after the fight, Ehrhoff didn't return to the game.

Here is the fight with Brouwer.

After the game coach Lindy Ruff said that Ehrhoff is "going to miss some time." Asked for an early timetable: "It'll probably be weeks."

These days when you hear upper-body injury in the NHL on the injury list, you have to worry that it might mean a dreaded concussion. Of course, there are so many parts of the body on the upper half that it could be a lot of things. He was in a head lock that had his shoulder twisted around during the scrap, too.

As to what the injury is, we don't know yet, perhaps it will come out in the coming days. But we do know that according to Ruff, it will be some time. Add in the fact that defenseman Tyler Myers is out and there's no timetable for his return and you see a blue line getting awfully thin.

Ehrhoff isn't one to fight often. The tussle with Brouwer was only the fourth fight of Ehrhoff's career, second this season, his first with the Sabres. He was one of Buffalo's two high-priced free-agent acquisitions this summer when he signed a 10-year, $40 million contract with Buffalo. So far in 36 games, Ehrhoff has produced three goals and 14 assists.

The other big free-agent acquisition for Buffalo this summer, Ville Leino, is also sidelined by injury at the moment.

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

Posted on: December 30, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 3:16 pm
 

Winter Classic in Miami? Panthers would love it

By Brian Stubits

Is there any doubt there's nothing more exciting in the regular season than the Winter Classic? It's by far and away the most-watched game of the season, it has the HBO 24/7 that leads up to it and is treated by the NHL for what it is: the season's marquee game. So every city wants to get their hands on it. Even Miami.

Could you imagine that picture being the setting for the Winter Classic? There are some that can.

Yes, the Florida Panthers would love to host the NHL's annual outdoor game (as would probably 29 other franchises). But there's that whole problem of playing in the tropics and ice, they don't really go together, right? Well, the Panthers think it could happen.

Thanks to the new baseball park opening in a couple of months for baseball's Miami Marlins, it could happen -- meaning literally, they could pull it off. That's because the new ballpark will have a retractable roof, opening the possibility of building a solid rink that would be more than playable.

George Richards of the Miami Herald reports that the Panthers brass would love to speak to the NHL about the possibility of the game in Miami, as farfetched as it seems.

Plus, some of the players would love to play where it's warm.

“Everyone loves coming down here and it would be neat to have a tropical outdoor game," said Kris Versteeg, who played in the Chicago Winter Classic. "People would travel from all over for that. The game and the weather would be great for the fans. It was awesome playing at Wrigley, but I don't want to play in that cold again. But it was a memory I'll always have."

To further lend credence to the idea that it could happen in Florida, remember that the Kings and Rangers played an outdoor game in Las Vegas in the preseason back in 1991 and that worked just fine. With the help of a retractable roof, NHL-quality ice is possible.

But the practicality of it? I'd say very, very low. It's not like the Panthers are a big draw in the NHL, although their success this season helps a little bit. Plus, Florida will have to get in line.

It's expected that next year's game will be held in Washington D.C., likely at Nationals Park. If it doesn't happen next year, it will happen the year after that in the nation's capital. It figures that Detroit/Michigan would be in the conversation. The same goes for the Twin Cities, Denver, St. Louis and even San Francisco. Adrian Dater of SI.com and the Denver Post is begging the NHL to bring the showcase West.

I agree with the sentiment that the NHL should try and drift out of the Northeastern corridor a little for the game, but that's the U.S. hockey hub, so I think those cities need to appear frequently in the rotation. As I said, I think Florida would be way down the list, to the point of not even being on it despite the possibilities.

It would be fantastic for the Panthers and hockey in Florida, would give it tremendous local exposure, but I'm not sure how much the reciprocal effect would be for the NHL. It has more of a Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber vibe to it than anything, but is fun to think about.

On top of it all, I can't imagine the outrage that would come from hockey fans if the game were played in 70-degree weather.

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