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Tag:Alexander Ovechkin
Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Capitals look good all around in pounding Wings

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- How much do you read into a 7-0 start? Not much other than a team is playing well to start the year.

But what can you read from the Capitals' 7-0 start to the season after a 7-1 rout of the previously unbeaten Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night? Maybe they're more than just hype. This performance is what you can call a statement win. On the heels of a very solid win in Philadelphia?

There is a lot to like. Let me count the ways.

Mike Green is beginning to resemble the player we came to know a few years ago. He tied a career high with four points Saturday, including both Capitals goal on the man advantage.

His presence was a large reason why the Capitals power play is looking lethal again. Sharp, crisp passes and Green firing on net from the point?

"If we could go 2 for 4 every night, we'd take it," coach Bruce Boudreau said.

He isn't alone in the puck-moving duties. A healthy Dennis Wideman has been huge in that department. With an assist here, he has a point in each of Washington's seven games thus far. That ties a career high (noticing a trend?). John Karlson ain't too shabby either.

Their lineup has balance and depth. Marcus Johansson, who was a healthy scratch on opening night, is tied for the team lead in goals with four, including a goal against Detroit. Matthieu Perreault, himself a scratch on a couple occasions, scored twice to bring his total to three on the season. Overall, 14 different Capitals made their way on to the score sheet against the Red Wings -- 14!

"It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night," Perreault said. "It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now."

More Red Wings-Capitals

"That shows the versatility and the depth on of this team," Troy Brouwer added. "Matty P's [Perreault] line scored two, well Matty scored two. Even our shutdown line was scoring tonight."

Players like Alexander Semin -- criticized for his playoff showings in recent years -- and Alex Ovechkin aren't carrying all of the offensive load. It's why Ovechkin's minutes are down this season and Bruce Boudreau wants to keep it that way. Johansson and Jason Chimera are the leading goal scorers so far, not Ovie, Semin or Nicklas Backstrom. Although it is worth noting that with two assists, Ovechkin might be warming up. That's points in three straight games.

They have some much-needed grit in the additions of Joel Ward and Brouwer, who had a team-high five hits Saturday. The line of Ward, Chimera and Brooks Laich -- the aforementioned shutdown line -- has been a nightmare on opposing top lines. Plus, those guys have some skill.

"It's good. That's how you win in this league," Ward said. "When you get each line scoring and in a positive manner, that's huge. That's what you need."

Oh, and there is this pretty sharp goaltender named Tomas Vokoun. He's just been OK if you find save percentages in the .960s good. Since an ugly debut, he's been lights out, allowing six goals in five games.

"It [being undefeated] feels pretty good," Vokoun said. "Obviously I am not custom to that feeling, so it's great. We work hard, we play hard and obviously we have the older talent. We are doing good things."

You are afraid to read too much into things so early in the season, but it's tough not to notice.

If we were to nitpick, though, we have to turn to the statistics. The Capitals are being outshot most nights, including 33-25 against the Red Wings on Saturday. A 28 percent shooting percentage is a little tough to repeat on most nights.

The Wings didn’t put their best foot forward Saturday night, starting Ty Conklin in favor of Jimmy Howard, who played in Friday night’s game. But they beat him like a drum.

"Anytime we lose it's disappointing [but] there's a lot of things as a team that we can take away from this," Conklin said. "I found a lot of ways we were really good, [but] like I said, the difference was in goal."

Tthere is no let up here. The balance is obvious just by looking at the ice time. No forward played more than 17:16 (that was Laich) and none played less than 10:20 (Perreault).

The word that comes to mind now is complete. The wholes are tough to find.

"The guys in here, it's still early in the season, we're real wrapped up and we're real excited to come into every game," Brouwer said.

"Right now we've been pretty hot and hopefully we can keep that going," Perreault said.

With so many contributors, that seems like a distinct possibility.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: August 30, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: August 30, 2011 9:56 am
 

Daily Skate: Devils planning Niedermayer night?

By Brian Stubits

NIEDERMAYER NIGHT? It's seems to be only a matter of time before the Devils honor Scott Niedermayer and retire his No. 27 jersey. According to Al Dhalla of Super Agent Inc., it will happen on Dec. 16 against the Stars. Tom Gulitti at the Bergen Record couldn't confirm the plans with Niedermayer, but Scott did acknowledge he has talked about it with the Devils in the past. "Lou [Lamoriello] will do it when he feels it's right to do. In my eyes at least, I don't think anything has been finalized anyway."

BELLY ACHING Alexander Ovechkin is the closes thing to a rock star in hockey because of his following back in Russia, he gets a bit of the paparazzi treatment. That makes this summer's hysteria and analysis over Ovi's seemingly bloated belly that was dissected by many, including Dan Steinberg at the Washington Post. Well maybe this will put fans at ease. Puck Daddy caught up with the Caps star before his upcoming charity game, and the interview included a "look at THIS belly" photo.

TO WHIT: If the Oilers plan on making a few small steps forward this season, they will need to have Ryan Whitney back on the ice. He was having a good season last year before he suffered an injured foot that cost him the remainder of his season. Unfortunately for him and Edmonton, he re-aggravated the injury earlier this summer skating in Boston. "I rolled over on the foot ... caught a rut in the ice. Minor sprain, I think," he told the Edmonton Journal. The good news is that it">

ODE TO LANGKOW: We finish up today with an ode coming from the Matchsticks and Gasoline blog about the exit of Daymond Langkow from the Flames to the Coyotes. I gotta tell ya, parting is such sweet sorrow. Especially when it includes prose like this: Then came that fateful day against Minnesota, Your luck was absent, not even one iota, The puck flew off of Ian White's stick, And hit your neck with the force of a brick.

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

Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:26 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Eastern Conference spots seem set for some time

By Brian Stubits

Sometimes simple and obvious things just hit you. Things you had realized before but for some reason they jump to your attention again. It tends to happen a lot more often during the lazy hockey days of summer.

That's exactly what happened when I began to think about the makeup of hockey markets/organizations, particularly in the Eastern Conference. What popped into my head was the fact that the contenders this season are likely to be the same as they were last season, and for the most part the same they were the season before that. And it's likely they will remain the contenders for the season after next, too.

At that moment I realized the NHL is starting to resemble the NBA in a way. And that's not good. One of the biggest reasons the NBA is in a lockout that seems to have no end in sight (Ken Berger and the Eye on Basketball guys have that covered) is the very issue that only a handful of teams enter every season with a chance to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Everybody's favorite stat about the (lack of) parity in the NBA is the simple fact that since 1984, only eight different organizations have won the championship. That's eight teams in 28 seasons.

Now look at the Eastern Conference in hockey. The Capitals have been atop their division for four straight seasons. The Penguins and Flyers are perennial contenders. Same goes for the Bruins while the Rangers, Canadiens and Sabres are regulars in the 5-8 range in the standings.

Of course that leaves teams like the Islanders (four-year playoff drought), Maple Leafs (six-year drought), Jets/Thrashers (one appearance in franchise history), Hurricanes (perennial contender for first runnerup these days) and the Panthers (10-year drought) to fend at the bottom.

So where do these teams fit? When you have a team like the Islanders seeming ready to step up and compete for the playoffs, who are they going to surpass? The Eastern Conference is full of traditional hockey markets in the American northeast and Canada, big markets either in hockey-crazy cities and ones with rich histories. The West has a few of those as well -- namely Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago -- but not as many as the East.

But have a look at the chart below detailing the past four seasons. Five teams have made the playoffs in each of those seasons and four teams have failed to advance beyond the regular season even once.

Last four seasons
Team Average finish (Eastern Conference) Playoff appearances 2011-12 payroll (capgeek.com)
Capitals 1.75 4 $65,190,128
Penguins 3.5 4 $62,737,500
Bruins 4.5 4 $56,682,976
Flyers 5 4 $64,124,761
Devils 5 3 $58,429,167
Canadiens 5.75 4 $59,770,510
Rangers 7.25 3 $62,935,334
Sabres 7.5 2 $67,895,357
Hurricanes 8.75 1 $49,775,000
Senators 9 2 $51,845,834
Lightning 11.5 1 $59,326,083
Maple Leafs 12.25 0 $59,115,000
Jets/Thrashers 12.25 0 $48,284,166
Panthers 12.25 0 $49,882,042
Islanders 13.75 0 $45,970,166

You get the feeling that at least five spots are locks in the East this year with two more almost assuredly the same. In the lock category you start with four of the five teams that have been staples: The Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. Add in the up-and-coming Lightning for good measure. Hard to imagine any of those five not making it this season. In the next two spots I think you can add the Rangers and Sabres. With new owner Terry Pegula, the Sabres seem destined to become another playoff regular. These are teams that all improved (or in the case of Boston, didn't have to improve, but more or less stay in tact after winning the Stanley Cup) and were already playoff caliber.

By my stellar mathematical abilities, that leaves one spot essentially up for grabs. Among the group fighting for it will be the Canadiens (the other team to make it each of the past four seasons), Devils and, well, the rest of the conference. Outside of the Senators who are building for a few years from now and maybe the Jets, every team in the conference looks to be better now then they were at the end of last season.

And here's the thing: I don't see how it will be easy to unseat these teams at the top of the conference. Sure, you will have the occasional team slipping through like the Lightning. To extend the analogy back to the NBA, that's like the Oklahoma City Thunder building after years of struggle to a competitive level. But they still have to fight through the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs, all of which are almost guaranteed to be in the hunt. It's hard to imagine a time when the Lakers won't be contenders, and when they have been (post-Shaquille O'Neal) they rebuilt in a hurry and won the title shortly thereafter.

That's what I'm seeing for the Eastern Conference, that kind of perennial favorite similarity. It makes sense, obviously. The best free agents will want to go to the best teams in the best hockey cities and the biggest pay checks. That's to be expected. And that's a huge reason why these teams are able to stay above the equator. It doesn't hurt to have the infrastructures they all have at their disposal, too. From fan support to smart organizational minds and moves, they win more often than not. Success begets success. It's no coincidence that these are also the teams most heavily featured on national TV.

Let's look at the Capitals. Owner Ted Leonsis has been mentioned his 10-to-15-year plan ... not a plan that calls for 10-to-15 years to win the Cup (although it's starting to look that way) but instead to keep the Caps a Cup contender for that time. And because Washington D.C. has shown itself to be a strong hockey market and is appealing to free agents, it's easy to see how the Caps can sustain that. You have a young Alexander Ovechkin on your roster? Lock him up! Just throw a 13-year contract in front of one of the sport's best players and he's aboard for the long haul. Try and do the same when you're in Tampa Bay and you have a situation where you are only able to secure Steven Stamkos for five seasons.

The reasons are obvious, much the same as the Yankees in baseball (and now the Red Sox). You can pen each of those teams into the playoffs before the season even starts and you are most likely going to be right. But this isn't supposed to happen in hockey, not with a supposedly game-evening hard salary cap. It's just the inherent advantages are too tough for a lot of teams to compete with. Essentially, the margin for error is razor thin for the lesser markets/organizations.

Toronto is the exception (sorry Leafs fans) to the big-market success model. It is probably the best hockey market in the NHL, has an incredibly devoted fan base and has not been afraid to spend. But even the Leafs are struggling these days to break that glass ceiling and butt their way into the playoffs. They couldn't beat out the Rangers for Brad Richards' services in free agency.

Now this is why they play the game. You can't lock in these teams to the playoffs. After all, who saw that Devils season coming last year? You still have to earn your way into the postseason. But if you are a fan of one of the bottom-feeders in the East, I'd suggest you cool your jets. The East's upper echelon is pretty well full of NHL aristocrats. The competition will be better and the spots will likely be more fiercely fought for, but it will be hard to break through.

In the West you can hear the mid-level teams saying "welcome to our world."

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: August 16, 2011 10:25 am
 

Daily Skate: Ovie endorsement; Isles under review

By Brian Stubits

I'M KIND OF A BIG DEAL: Alexander Ovechkin is always endorsing something. He and Sidney Crosby are undoubtedly the NHL's endorsement Kings. The latest for Ovie? His face being plastered (alexovetjkin.blogspot.com) on the Canadian candy bar Mr. Big Deal. Underneath a smiling Alex is the slogan "Be a big deal like me."

REPLAY REVIEW: The Islanders' plan to have a viewing party to re-watch the game against the Penguins that erupted into the Royal Rumble has drawn a lot of attention across the hockey world. Apparently it caught the NHL's eyes, too. Kevin Allen at USA Today writes that the NHL is "looking into" the promotion, with deputy commissioner Bill Daly saying "We do not approve of the use, based on what we know."

R.I.P. RIPPER: The tragic news came down late Monday that Winnipeg Jets enforcer Rick Rypien was found dead in his home. There is still a lot more to come out on that story. In the meantime, remembrances are pouring in all over Twitter of the player affectionately called the Ripper. Here's an example from Mike Commodore: "RIP Rick Rypien. He was a warrior. Hit me so hard my eyes couldn't focus for 30 secs. Not sure if it was a left or right. #hitmewithboth" USA Today offered up a photo gallery of Rypien's career.

PENS IN DEMAND: The Penguins continue to sell tickets like hot cakes. The team announced this morning that they are again capping the season-ticket sales at 15,000 for the season. That just continues the run in Pittsburgh where the Pens have sold out the last 210 games, which includes every game for the last four seasons.

SMAHSVILLE CELEB SHOW: The game isn't the only attraction in Nashville when you talk Predators hockey. The games are a hotspot for celebrities, too, mostly from the country music world. Nashville is, after all, the home of country. So in further embracing the city's country music roots and promoting the team, the Preds put together (Section 303) a bit of a montage of the scene at games in Nashville.

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

Posted on: August 5, 2011 10:37 am
 

Daily Skate: Case against Osgood; Isles jersey?

By Brian Stubits

NOT OSGOOD ENOUGH: The debate will go on as long as we don't have anything more meaningful to discuss. (OK, that's a lie, we've had much more meaningful things, but we digress.) Is Chris Osgood worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame? Here's a submission from a Red Wings fan arguing why Osgood should NOT be inducted. I always like seeing a fan trying his/her best to be impartial and arguing against their team. In this case, Osgood is truly as close to a tossup as you will find and you can make the argument either way.

ISLES THIRD JERSEY?: The blog over at Puck Daddy got wind yesterday of a possible third jersey for next season for the New York Islanders. As you might have noticed, alternates have become all the rage, a nice way for teams to sell additional jerseys. The sweater features a lot of black with blue and orange piping. The team later said that the mockup was one of the versions being considered but no final decision was made. I am clearly in the minority based on the onslaught of bad reactions the team received for it, but I don't mind them.

BOLTS PROSPECT HURT: Perhaps the Lightning's top prospect, Brett Connolly was hurt in a game on Thursday, having to be helped off the ice according to TSN's Ryan Rishaug, who says that it looked like a leg injury, and not a very good one.

OVIE DITCHES CCM: Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin made an off-ice move this week, changing his apparel company from CCM to Bauer. Too bad, I guess it means the end of the crazy Ovechkin commercials that CCM was running like this one.

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

Posted on: June 21, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 5:43 pm
 

Crosby beats out Ovechkin for top-selling jersey

So who's the bigger star: Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin? It's an ongoing debate, but you can notch one in The Kid's department. Again.

For the sixth consecutive season, Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins jersey was the highest-selling jersey in the NHL, edging out Ovechkin at No. 2. They were followed up by Blackhawks teammates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, then Crosby's teammate Evgeni Malkin rounded out the top five.

Both the Blackhawks and Penguins led the way in the top 20 with four players apiece. Joining Crosby and Malkin for Pittsburgh were Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang. Chicago's dynamic duo was joined by Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

Somewhat surprising considering the tremendous amount of interest Boston just got done showing in its hockey team, there is only one Bruin on the list -- and it's not Zdeno Chara or Tim Thomas. Nope, checking in at No. 16 is Milan Lucic.

This goes a long way in showing Crosby's star power, if there were any questions left. Despite missing half the season, he was still No. 1 in the merchandise business.

Your move, Ovie.

-- Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl 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