Perfect road trip leads Caps to early division lead

Cross-country road trips are usually very tough on teams, especially early in the season.  Teams are usually just learning themselves and trying to get acclimated to new teammates and building camaraderie while learning themselves in the process.  In the first two weeks of the season, it looks as if the offense is on its way to another super season.

In winning all three games of the Canadian West Coast trip, the Capitals have established themselves as an early-favorite to contend for the Stanley Cup this season.  In the first game of the tip, Alexander Ovechkin recorded his 900th NHL point with his fourth goal of the season and Nicklas Backstrom scored twice in a 6-2 win over Calgary.  Ovechkin continues to add the accolades to an already storied career.  His 479 goals are the most in the NHL since 2001-02, despite not starting his NHL career until 2005.

The next game pitted the Caps vs the perennial Western Conference stalwarts from Vancouver.  As expected, this game was nip and tuck until Evgeny Kuznetsov fed Ovechkin on a 2-1 odd man rush for a slapshot that found the net with under 5 minutes remaining to give the Caps a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.  Goalie Braden Holtby made 23 saves for his 5th win in the early season.  The final game of the trip became the coming out party for second year center Evgeny Kuznetsov as he netted three goals for his first NHL hat trick and added two assists to help the Capitals beat the Edmonton Oilers 7-4 on Friday night for their fifth straight victory.

Playing their third game in four nights, the Capitals improved to 6-1-0.

“We knew it was a big road trip for us. It was our first road trip,” Ovechkin said. “We’re obviously happy to take these points.”

Coming home to face the hated Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, the Caps need to bring the same effort as they have so far into this coming week.

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2012 Year In Review

2012 aka The Greatest Year in My Adult Sporting Fandom! LOL (I know, I know I’m a couple of days late….sue me! LOL)

With Robert Griffin III and The Redskins making the playoffs this season, people have easily forgotten how great of a season its been for ALL DC Sports fans.  Two Divisional Titles with epic performances from the young, old and obscure made this a classic year.

 

Bryce Harper

The Nationals were the best team in baseball virtually the whole 2nd half of the season (Record-wise).  The early call-up of rookie phenom (and eventual Rookie of the Year) Bryce Harper energized a fan base who early on wondered would the early success last especially with the lack of offense, injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, “Beast Mode” Michael Morse, Jesus Flores, Drew Storen and Jayson Werth (and eventually Breakout Star Ian Desmond would be lost for a month later in the season).  Davey Johnson and staff did a helluva job with the pitching staff, who was outstanding throughout the long campaign.  Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzales both made the All Star team as did the aforementioned Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper.  Ryan Zimmerman took “The Corizone Shot from God” and came back with numbers that would have made him an MVP candidate.  Our REAL MVP candidate was Adam LaRoche, who after an injury filled 2011, came back with a vengeance.  He displayed Gold Glove winning defense and Silver Slugger winning power.  He stabilized what became the biggest improvement of the team during the resurgence to respectability, the team overall defense.   The 2nd half of the season was just a joy to watch for all Nats fans and the day we clinched the Division crown was an absolute joy, one of the greatest sporting moments of my life (NEVER deleting that from the DVR!).  We didn’t go into the playoffs with our best squad with the shutdown of Strasburg and losing a couple of series going into postseason, but for me, just getting there THIS year was more than enough for me….just dont get swept LOL.  We all know what eventually happened, after Jayson Werth provided us with a DC Sports moment of the ages with the walk-off HR in the bottom of the 9th in Game 4, we eventually lost Game 5 in the bottom of the 9th off our young closer Drew Storen.  Honestly, the Cardinals played better than us throughout the series, and we walked waaaaaaaaay too many batters throughout the series that it would eventually bite us in the ass, and it did.  Regardless, The Nationals are now a major threat to win the whole thing next year (especially if we can resign LaRoche) and for years to come.  Denard Span will now man CF so Bryce Harper can become settled in at a corner outfield position along with Werth at the other.  Also coming to the team this off-season is veteran Dan Haren to become the 5th starter. If he can show us anything from his earlier years, this will be the best rotation in the league as if it wasn’t already.  Ill take Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detweiler (who was the best pitcher in the postseason) against any rotation in the majors today. Natitude is alive and well!

Joel Ward and teammates celebrate!

Our Capitals didnt dominate the Regular Season like we normally do, and maybe that was a good thing going into the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, finishing 7th overall in the Eastern Conference matching up with the defending Cup Champs, the Boston Bruins.  Rookie Goalie Brandon Holtby was just outstanding and Joel Ward scored a series clinching overtime goal in the 7th and deciding game.  After winning a game like that, us Caps fans thought that quite possibly the demons of Postseason’s Past could finally be exercised.  Alas they werent as we were defeated by the hated New York Rangers again in 7 games.  Coach Dale Hunter who took over in midseason after the firing of fan favorite Bruce Boudreau, declined to return for the next season and we hired (another) former Caps great in recent Hall of Famer Adam Oates to take over the reigns.  Hopefully there will be a damn season to start soon enough! LETS GET IT TOGETHER OWNERS!!!!

Not much to say about the Wizards sadly smh.  We are the worst franchise in the sport as our only two players worth a damn (John Wall and Nene) both started the season injured.  Fun Times on Fun Street!  Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton haven’t developed much at all and we have the worst record in the sport with no light at the end of the tunnel.  Thanks Ernie Grundfeld for ALL of this!

 

The Rooks!

Lastly, Our Washington Redskins.  I’m not going to write much because that’s going to go into another posting. I do want to acknowledge the fact that this team, region, fan base is re-energized.  Even if we didn’t make the playoffs this season, you could finally see that the fruits of the labor of Bruce Allen, Coach Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and most importantly, the scouting department is finally coming to fruition.   Long gone are the days where just making the playoffs was the ultimate ceiling for the team, we can now build a true contender which one day could make “just” winning divisional titles commonplace.  HAIL!

Oh, I know this posting is about DC Sports, but I’m a HUGE Kentucky Wildcats fan….and we won that chip last year….don’t get mad at Calipari, DEAL WITH IT…”Coach YOUR team!” GO BIG BLUE!

Capitals with Epic Comeback….will this change the tide in DC Sports?

As a native Washingtonian, these past 2 decades (since 1991) have dealt us nothing but misfortune and stupidity.  Last night was a night where us fans are used to, to a fault.  We are used to not coming to play when it matters. We are used to not bringing maximum effort. We are used to losing games we just can not lose.  We do NOT make epic comebacks, we have epic collapses.  We lose daggers….hell the term was basically coined HERE by the great Steve Buckhantz to describe backbreaking Wizards losses.

BE PHYSICAL!!!!!

The Capitals came back from being down not just 3-0 on the road vs the New York Rangers, but also because of some little comments by Coach Bruce Boudreau, the MSG faithful were raining jeers at him and the team, while playing probably their worst 20 minutes of hockey in quite a while.  No one expected a comeback…remember, we live in Washington DC.  We would have been just happy with an ounce of fight and coming back home for Game 5 tied 2-2 on Saturday afternoon.  But for some strange reason, this Capitals team found the intestinal fortitude, this same team who was once dubbed “Choking Dogs” by the great Tony Kornheiser almost 20 years ago for epic playoff failures vs the hated Penguins, Islanders, Flyers, you name it….this was the EXACT game we lose.

That 3rd period was one of the most exhilarating periods of do-or-die hockey I’ve seen (and I’m not a Hockey lifer here).  The team played with the fire and emotion that ALL fans can appreciate, remember, I’m a native Washingtonian fan here.  Im USED to losing unfortunately.  I can take losing, all I (and most fans) want, is effort, and that wasn’t what we recieved from our team in the 1st 2 periods.  Even as Alex Ovechkin missed a key breakaway in Overtime, I had this feeling that we would still win not because we are more talented, because we just are….but because of the reckless effort being put out by everybody from the superstars to the rookies like young Marcus Johannson who had 2 tallies in that awesome 3rd period.

Damon Jones, Lebron James, Matt Turk, Jaramir Jagr, Sean Taylor, Albert Haynesworth, The 1st 6 years of existence of the Nats, Carlos Rogers’ dropped INT vs Seattle, Jarislov Halak, Sidney Crosby etc….the list goes on and on of missed opportunities, clutch losses and wasted potential greatness.  Last night was the 1st time in decades that a pro sports team in MY city looked the part of a true title contender.  Now will this springboard the team of obvious talent to heights unseen or will it fall back down to “our reality”???  Stay tuned…..

Back from hiatus….Just in time for March Madness

Hello everyone…..

I know, I know…I’ve been loafing BIG TIME on this blog…and I do apologize….hell the last post I made was about how much OPTIMISM I had for the upcoming Washington Wizards season….and boy was I wrong in hindsight LOL. Anyhoo, I am back and I want to just mention a couple of bullet points before I start my usual blog postings again.

1. KENTUCKY WILDCATS BABY!!!!

2. Congrats to Grevis Vasquez for winning ACC POY…WELL deserved!

3. Evan Turner…..can flat out do it…and he should be National Player of the Year

4. The Washington Capitals are the best team in Hockey…hope it translates in April/May

5. If the Wizards didnt have bad luck, they wouldnt have none at all….

6. LOVE the new approach the Washington Redskins have taken in this years Free Agency Period.

7. Stephen Strausburg…..nuff said.

I will be back shortly with my College Bball Roundup/Tourney Preview, Capitals Report, 2010 Washington Nationals Season Preview and other topics.

Take care everyone….

Capitals Advance by Rangers

 

By Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO

The Washington Capitals will now face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the NHL playoffs. (Courtesy Photo/Washington Capitals)

(April 29, 2009) – Sergei Federov, Simeon Varlamov, Matt Bradley and Tom Poti.

These are names most casual NHL observers wouldn’t recognize. But without the extraordinary effort by those players, the Washington Capitals would not have been able to become only the 21st team in NHL History to come back from a 3-1 series deficit and pull off the seven game Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Rangers, winning, 4-3, in their first playoff series victory since 1998.

New York won the first two games in Verizon Center on the strength of the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, while Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau made quite possibly the biggest decision in his two seasons as coach, benching the incumbent starter Jose Theodore, who was awful in game one. Theodore was benched in favor of rookie Novice Simeon Varlamov for game two.

Even though the Rangers won the second game, the rookie was outstanding in defense and would go on to only give up seven goals in six games to lead the whole NHL in goals against average for the first round of playoffs.
Washington fought back and easily won game three in Madison Square Garden, 4-0, as Varlamov held the Rangers to a shutout. Behind two goals from Alexander Semin, and a goal a piece by Brooks Laich and Tom Poti, the Capitals outplayed the Rangers from start to finish and momentum seemed to swing back in Washington’s favor.

But in game four, Lundqvist again was outstanding with a career high 38 saves in a 2-1 win for the Rangers and all Capitals hope seemed to be lost.
Game five back on home ice turned into the Matt Bradley show early in the game with two goals in the first period and that sequence seemed to deflate the Rangers for good as the Capitals won in front of a raucous Verizon Center crowd, 4-0.  Besides the fact that Varlamov recorded his second shutout in three games, Rangers Coach John Tortorella’s altercation with fans on the opposing bench which lead to a one game suspension made this game one of the most memorable in Capitals History.

Game six was back at Madison Square Garden but that didn’t matter to the suddenly hot Capitals, who seemed to have figured out Lundqvist, who was benched in the third period for the second consecutive game. Goals by defensemen Milan Jurcina, Mike Green and Tom Poti, plus another highlight worthy goal by Victor Kozlov, made it a 5-1 game by the end of the 2nd period. The final two goals by the Rangers were virtually meaningless.

Game seven didn’t start off well for the Capitals, as the Rangers played their best overall game in the series holding Washington without one shot on goal for the first 11 minutes of the game and jumping out to a one goal lead. Although back on familiar ice, the Capitals seemed to be a little tentative early but as the game progressed, they regained their confident swagger, especially after a goal by Semin to tie the game up late in the first period.

The Rangers played great “keep-a-way” defense for the whole second period, giving the Capitals very little chances to score and it took all the way until the five minute mark in the final period where former league MVP Sergei Federov scored one of the most memorable goals in team history to complete the comeback and give the Capitals and its fans a huge 2-1 victory.

As the celebration started on the ice and on the streets of Chinatown, D.C., word had started to spread that the next opponent for the Capitals will be Sydney Crosby, and the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. This is the dream matchup everyone from the fans to the commissioner’s office has been waiting for. Game one will be at the Verizon Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. and will be shown on national TV on NBC.

Capitals Give Fans Best Season Ever

Capitals Give Fans Best Season Ever
By Dion Johnson
Special to the AFRO

Alex Ovechkin has been the Capital’s main scorer this season. (Photo / junksweb.com)

It’s hard to believe, with the up and down nature of the way the Washington Capitals played the second half of the regular season, that it still will be known as the greatest season in team history.

In the 33 years of the Capitals’ existence, they have never amassed as many points (108) and tied a team-best record with 50 wins. With that accomplishment, they have earned the second seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs and will face the New York Rangers in the first round.

The Capitals success revolves around its star, Alex Ovechkin, who led the team in goals (65) and points (100) and continued to rack up numerous action highlights, winning fans across the nation. But this team hasn’t been a one-man show.

Breakout seasons from Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Brooks Laich helped Washington make history as well.

Green led all defensemen in the NHL with 31 goals, while Backstrom had a team-high 66 assists, along with 88 points. Semin added 79 points on the season, while Laich had 53 points, proving that the Capitals will make you pay if you devote too much attention to Ovechkin.

Washington also benefited from the sturdy goaltending of Jose Theodore, and found solid veteran leadership and professionalism in players such as the team’s lone African American, Donald Brashear.

The Capitals’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the fans as the team broke its all-time attendance record, and has already sold out its season ticket packages for next year.

Television ratings are up by 67 percent on ComcastSportsNet (which airs Capitals games) and team merchandise sells are at the top of the league, showing how this franchise has its fans by the collar despite the financial recession.

ComcastSportsNet will continue to cover the Capitals throughout the playoffs, but two of the first round games will be broadcasted on NBC.

It’ll be exciting to watch Washington in the playoffs on national television, but it won’t be easy for the Capitals to advance pass the Rangers. The NHL playoffs are notorious for its lower seeds defeating the higher seeded teams. The Rangers have a great goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy candidate the last three years. New York also rosters Sean Avery, a well known agitator who will focus on distracting Ovechkin. The Capitals must remained composed against Avery’s antics and stay focused on their main agenda, which is winning, surviving and advancing to the next round.

Caps Blow Chance with Loss to L.A. Kings

by Dion Johnson
Special to the AFRO

The Capitals have the third most wins in the league (34-16), but will need to play better than last Thursday’s performance to remain among the NHL’s elite. (Courtesy Photo)
(February 10, 2009) – It often happens in all sports.

There is a young, up-and-coming team full of superstar skill, which captures the masses attention as a “feel good,” story, by rising from the low ranks to become a dominant force. This was the case of the Washington Capitals last season, who’ve perhaps positioned themselves as a true Stanley Cup championship contender.

But after a three-game winning streak (two of those games against perennial powerhouses Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils, the latter being the hottest team in the league at the time), the Capitals put up a lackluster effort defensively against the Los Angeles Kings at home, losing 5-4 last Thursday at the Verizon Center.

The Capital scored within the first 15 seconds, courtesy of Mike Green, but didn’t score again until the late second, and by then, the Kings (23-21 overall) had numerous easy breakaways and far too many defensive breakdowns and scoring chances.

It wasn’t until the third period the Caps finally played with the passion that has engulfed this region.

When the Capitals play with that passion, it’s hard to beat this team.

In the third period, Alex Ovechkin scored his 200th career goal, becoming the fifth fastest player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

Capitals’ Bruce Boudreau was not a happy camper in his post game press conference and he shouldn’t have been, nor was Ovechkin, who spoke in a whisper.

This loss may be just the proverbial “let down,” after three impressive wins and most will have to accept that. But, no one wants to see this team lose to teams they should defeat, especially at home.

And if Washington is to be mentioned among the NHL’s elite with teams such as the Red Wings, the Devils, the San Jose Sharks and the Boston Bruins, performances like last Thursday must remain few and far in between.

Caps Update:

The Washington Capitals bounced back from its loss to the Kings with a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers last Friday at the Verizon Center, advancing to a 34-16 overall record, good for the third most wins in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins (39 – 8) and Detroit Red Wings (35 – 11).