Washington Capitals

He shoots! He scores! He’s an idiot!

We’ve seen this happen plenty of times at little kids soccer games, but it doesn’t occur all too often on sport’s professional levels. Of course, we’re talking about getting that all-too-perfect set up and knocking down a huge goal for the team…the other team!

But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday when Caps center Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal on his own net with 28 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 2-2 against Pittsburgh. As you would expect, Washington went on to lose 4-2 as Sydney Crosby got credit for Backstrom’s blunder.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Weekend Recap

1. The Kings of the Island
On Sunday night, the Islanders and Rangers battled it out for the crown of second-best team in New York (the Sabres play there too, remember). In the end, the Isles come away victorious, snatching a 7-4 win from their in-state rivals and moving to the top of the Atlantic Division. Viktor Kozlov had an incredible night for the boys in blue and orange, netting four goals for the first time in his 14 year career. His performance overshadowed the Rangers’ trusty veteran Brendan Shanahan, who posted a hat trick of his own on Sunday at the Garden. Defensively, Rick DiPietro had a nice night for the Isles, stopping 39 of 43 shots for win number 11 on the year. The Islanders have now won five of their last seven games.

2. Ovechkin’s rite of passage

Alexander Ovechkin’s 17th goal of the season in the first period of Saturday’s game helped the Washington Capitals down the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 7-4. Just one period later, he was thrown from the contest with a game misconduct- the first of his young career. Congratulations on the accomplishment, Alex. Of course you’ve never really solidified yourself in the NHL until you’ve been tossed from a game, as Mr. Ovechkin was for his check from behind on Buffalo’s Daniel Briere. Washington’s Matt Pettinger picked up the slack after Ovechkin left, slipping the puck past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller two times in the game. It was the third win in a row for Washington, who has moved up to the middle of the pack in the Southeast Division.

3. Is Savard The Answer?
After his first three games behind the bench, the Chicago Blackhawks certainly think so. After a 4-3 overtime win over the Preds on Saturday in Nashville, Chicago improved to 3-0 on the year under new coach Denis Savard, who took the head coach spot from Trent Yawney a week ago. Chicago’s Jeff Hamilton netted a hat trick and added an assist in the game against Nashville, who has lost all three decisions against Chi-town this season. Who would have thought that nearly half of the Preds’ (who are second in the Western Conference) losses would come at the hand of the Hawks (who are in the bottom five in the Western)?

Check It Out
The Calgary Sun’s David Unkle talks about the Flyers’ season so far, and the youngsters they’re looking to for victories, thanks to injuries and poor play from the everyday veterans. Obviously it isn’t working out for Philadelphia this year, who are dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Game of the Night: San Jose at Dallas
Sharks look to improve to 4-0 on four-game road trip

The Last Shot
Hope Sebastien Caron’s parents weren’t in attendance:

Thanks to Off Wing’s Eric Mcerlain for the pointer.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Goaliefest

45 saves for Tim Thomas

The goaltenders took center stage on Tuesday, as the NHL action was sparked by some serious defensive numbers:

-585 total saves
-Three shutouts (each with fewer than three total goals)
-Nine goalies with 30 or more saves (two with at least 45)
Here are some of the highlights:

1. Down to the Wire
In the NHL, it’s rare to stop all 39 official shots that get thrown your way- and still get tacked with the loss. Just ask Panther goalie Alexander Auld, who had a monster game against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, going 39-for-39 on save opportunities to earn a shutout in the stat books. Sometimes, though, posting a perfect save percentage just isn’t enough to win you the game. Montreal’s Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu both got the puck by Auld in the shootout period, and gave Habs netminder Cristobal Huet his second shutout of the year. This was only the second time in NHL history that a goalie posted a shutout and received the loss. Huet was outsaved by his counterpart on the opposite side of the ice, but still had an amazing game in his own right with 36 saves. It was Florida’s fourth straight loss, as the Panthers remain at the pit of the Southeast Division.

2. Terminator Tim
Boston Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas stopped 45 pieces of vulcanized rubber from Toronto sticks on Tuesday night, only letting one puck hit the twine behind him. Unlike Alex Auld, Tim’s career night actually ended with a win, as the Bruins’ offense clicked to the tune of four goals. Thomas picked the right time to come up big, as last-place Boston is barley clinging to relevance. Tim’s comments, from the AP:
“We’re fighting to get back into the race. We had a meeting this morning and Coach [Dave Lewis] said this was the closet thing we’ve had to a playoff game. To get to the playoffs we have to beat teams like the Maple Leafs. He basically challenged us.”
If the Bruins want any chance at playing in the postseason, they’re going to need Tim Thomas to answer the challenge as he did on Tuesday.

3. Olaf the Great
Tuesday’s saves leader was Washington’s Olaf Kolzig, who fell a measly two saves short of the half-century mark. Ollie went 48-for-50 on save opportunities, and the Capitals’ offense banged home five goals for the victory. It snapped a six-game skid for a second-to-last Caps club, as a potent offensive attack was able to get red-hot Tampa goalie Johan Holmqvist pulled from the game in the second period. Five different players tallied scores for Washington, including last year’s Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Alexander Ovechkin (granted, it was an empty netter- but Ovechkin is Ovechkin, so it is newsworthy all the same).

Check It Out
Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail reminds us of just how similar rookie Paul Stasny is to his dad. His dad Peter earned a reputation for being a go-to guy, which is part of the reason why he stands in the Hall Of Fame today. Paul, a college hockey powerhouse Denver University alum, is off to a good start in the pros with Colorado: through 24 games, he has six goals and thirteen assists.

Game of the Night: San Jose at Minnesota
Sharks have won five of last six games

The Last Shot
Yesterday in Bethlehem, New York, a new YMCA opened–featuring an NHL-sized hockey rink. It is the second YMCA in New York to showcase a pro-sized ice sheet, and the Y would be smart to continue with the trend. Out here in the Rockies, we have several YMCA’s- and to our knowledge, no hockey rinks are to be found. The twelve million swimming pools that are found within one YMCA would get quite a bit more use if they were frozen over.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Penguins, NHL Luck Out

No more red for Malkin

1. Malkin Staying In NHL
After an ongoing dispute with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian Super League, a federal judge ended all debate and declared that rookie sensation Evgeni Malkin could stay with the NHL… from the AP:

Metallurg Magnitogorsk, a Russian Super League team, claims that Malkin is under contract in his native country. The club sought a preliminary injunction that would have banned the forward from playing for the Penguins until the matter is resolved.
But the ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska clears the way for Malkin, a star rookie with Penguins, and minor leaguers Andrei Taratukhin of the Calgary Flames and Alexei Mikhnov of the Edmonton Oilers to stick with the NHL franchises.

The Penguins and the NHL must be thanking their lucky stars. Malkin is what the Pens have needed for a while as far as options on the ice – and he’s a marketing machine for the NHL, much like Alex Ovechkin has proved to be after his incredible rookie campaign.

2. Surviving a Scare
The Nashville Predators were able to hold off a pesky Columbus club on Wednesday night, propelling to a 5-4 win. The Preds scored the final two goals of the game in the third to help themselves to the victory – they were netted by David Legwand and Scott Nichol with less than 10 minutes to play. This was a pretty important victory for Nashville, who continued to stay on Detroit’s tail in the Central. As we said before, it looks to be a two-team dogfight for possession of that division, and the race will be close throughout the remainder of the season. The Red Wings have won nine straight, and are clearly the hottest team in hockey. If there was one positive to come out of this game for the Jackets, it’s the solid play of Rick Nash, who scored two goals and racked up an assist in the game.

3. Can’t Capitalize
The Bruins downed the Caps on Wednesday in Washington, taking it to a shootout and converting for the 3-2 victory. After Boston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the 1st, the Capitals stepped up their D for the final two periods, shutting out the Bruins for the rest of regulation and overtime. In shootouts, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron got one by Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig to secure the victory. In the game, Tim Thomas saved 33 shots off the sticks of Caps’ players, including shutouts in the final three segments of the game. The Bruins’ Marc Savard earned two assists, extending his points streak to seven games.

Check It Out
CBS Sportsline’s Wes Goldstein repots that the Capitals’ days of misery have finally passed by. With a building block like Alex Ovechkin, is tough to disagree — Washington looks to be a legitimate contender not only in the Southeast Division but in the Eastern Conference as a whole.

Game of the Night: Minnesota at Nashville
Wild have lost four of last five games

The Last Shot
Alexander Ovechkin fired his agent, Don Meehan, on Wednesday. This comes as a bit of a surprise to us, as Meehan is known to be a solid agent in the hockey world, working for clients like Jerome Iginla and Jose Theodore.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: So what do they do with all those hats?


1. Collecting Hats
Ilya Kovalchuck was the star for the Thrashers on Monday night, leading his team to a 5-3 win in Atlanta. The #1 overall draft pick in 2001 sent the hats flying with a Hat Trick, netting three Power Play goals and an assist in the game. Kovalchuk continues to impress, and is slowly forming into one of the best players in the league. Atlanta’s Johan Hedberg had a nice night between the pipes, stopping 24 of 27 shots faced on the way to his third straight win. Another big reason for the Thrashers’ success was the amount of time they spent on the man advantage. Boston committed 13 penalties in the game, allowing four Power Play goals.

2. Capping Off the Win
Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals walked out of the Verizon Center with a 4-3 Overtime victory on Monday night, trying to keep pace with the Atlanta Thrashers in a crowded Southeast Division. Ovechkin did his thing yet again – scoring two goals, including the game-tying Power Play goal with 24 seconds left in regulation. That would later set up Chris Clark for the game-winner in the extra period. The Senators held a comfortable 3-0 lead in the first period, but were unable to stall the Caps’ offense. Washington scored four unanswered goals over the next two and a half periods to earn the victory. With the loss, the Ottawa Senators have now lost four straight games and are in danger of slipping to last in the Northeast Division.

3. Lightning Strikes the Island
On Monday night in the Nassau Coliseum, the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the New York Islanders by a score of 5-1. Tampa Bay sniper Martin St. Louis scored a Power Play goal in the second period, breaking a 1-1 tie and launching a stretch of four unanswered goals for the Lightning. They also got some offensive help from an unlikely source in Defenseman Filip Kuba, who scored his forst and second goals of the season. Johan Hedberg got a rare start for Tampa, and made the most of it. He stopped 25 shots en route to his first win of the year.

Check It Out
Off Wing Opinion’s Eric McErlain talks about the NHL’s scheduling issues. He, along with the rest of the hockey world, would like to see less divisional games and more interconference contests.

Game of the Night: Minnesota at San Jose
Minnesota has won last four games at San Jose

The Last Shot
Former Red Wing Steve Yzerman received the Lester Patrick Award Monday, given to individuals who have made an impact on hockey in the United States.

NHL General

Crashing the Zamboni: Weekend recap

1. Floundering in Philly
On Saturday night in Philadelphia, the Washington Capitals downed the Flyers by a score of 5-3. It was the Caps’ first win in Philly since 1998, lasting a stretch of 16 games. Alexander Ovechkin bailed Washington out again netting two goals in the first period en route to the victory. He now has eight goals on the season. The Flyers, on the other hand, still haven’t picked it up. They’re off to one of their worst starts ever, currently standing with a 3-9-1 record. Much of this abysmal start can be attributed to goalie Robert Esche, who was expected to do well this season. Needless to say, his 1-3 record and 5.31 Goals Allowed Average have been a bit of a disappointment.

2. Hot Wings
The Detroit Red Wings have suddenly caught fire. With a victory in Columbus on Saturday, they’re now won six straight games and are tied for the lead in the Central Division. Dan Cleary scored his first two goals of the season, including a shorthanded tally in the second period. Cleary scored only three times all of last year for Detroit, who will go for their seventh straight win on Wednesday night against the Oilers. Dominik Hasek has been solid between the pipes, getting four of the six victories and only giving up seven goals in the process.

3. Sparking Flames
The Calgary Flames have been non-existent this season in a competitive Northwest Division, and with a record of 4-7-2 they’ve been a disappointment to many. Jerome Iginla provided the spark that they’ve desperately needed on Saturday night, leading his team to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Iginla scored the game-winning Power Play goal with under five minutes to go, snapping a four game losing streak for the Flames. On the other side, the Blues’ Bill Guerin scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season. He’s more than halfway through his goal total of 13 from last year.

Check It Out’s Evan Weiner discusses the Chicago Blackhawks and the possibility that their lowliness is attributed to another Chicago curse. Story has it, the “curse of Muldoon” was put upon them by a former coach.

Game of the Night: Pittsburgh at Anaheim
Anaheim: Have not lost in regulation this year (10-0-4); Penguins’ Malkin held without goal for first time Sat. against SJ

The Last Shot
With their 4-3 win over the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday, the Predators extended a franchise-best road winning streak to seven games.