An alarming skate

The Verizon Center fire alarm went off as the Thrashers were finishing up their morning skate today. Hey, they are 3-1-1 over their last five games, but they’re not really on fire.

Some storylines tonight:

—Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has a league-best 11 goals in February. Kovy has 10. Alex ends the month at Boston on Saturday; Ilya plays at home against Carolina. Ovechkin is three goals shy of tying his best month of his career (March 20088).

—Four of the Thrashers’ final 20 games are against the Capitals.

—The Capitals were front-page news in today’s Washington Post, with a story talking about how they’re the hot sports story in DC. The Wizards and Nationals are awful, and the Redskins aren’t good. Meanwhile, the Capitals tonight will have a franchise-record-tying 10th consecutive sellout. It helps to have Ovechkin, but there’s more to this team and the Verizon Center atmosphere than just him. This is the best Capitals team ever through 60 games (38-17-5).

—Ovechkin (44 goals) has an eight-goal lead on the rest of the league. Mike Green (22 goals) has a five-goal lead on the rest of the NHL’s defensemen.

29 comments Add your comment

ranallo10 (in AT)

February 26th, 2009
2:10 pm

Wait a second…the Capitals are in the midst of a good season, playoff bound, and one of the best teams in the city, and the local newspaper appropriately gives them press coverage over all other sports and local news?

What kind of wacky city is D.C.?? Don’t the editors at the Washington Post know hockey is supposed to be relegated to the back pages and mentioned after the great sports like highschool basketball, college football, online poker, and basket weaving?

Crazy people.

Smoothie

February 26th, 2009
2:27 pm

Mike, what are the lines for tonite? Anyone sitting due to an impending trade? Is Slater going to get back in the lineup?

kracker

February 26th, 2009
2:36 pm

Whew…I was half-way expecting news of a strained g@$#n or something.

Good for the Caps, DC and NHL hockey in the SE. May the good publicity and excitement be here in Atlanta next season.

GaVaHokie

February 26th, 2009
2:46 pm

Hockey on the front page of a newspaper… that IS alarming!

Jarndyce

February 26th, 2009
3:08 pm

Kracker: Never forget that newspaper people love their puns (no offense, Mike).

exSTH

February 26th, 2009
3:41 pm

Mike…let me ask Smoothie’s question again : Mike, what are the lines for tonite? Anyone sitting due to an impending trade? Is Slater going to get back in the lineup?

Also, why is the Thrashers roster only showing 22 players including Slater as IR? Does that mean there are technically 2 OPEN spots?

Brendan

February 26th, 2009
4:55 pm

Ya know, there’s a lot of “nuttiness” in DC right now, Ranallo. I embrace it. The Capitals are “change we need.” Hey, aren’t we, technically, supposed to root for a SE division team to win the Cup, to lend credibility and panache to our division?

Okay, it was just a thought.

Prediction: Capitals reach the CF this season. I, kinda, sorta think the Caps are going to represent the East in the “Showcase Event” this June. The stars have aligned nicely in DC. And it all began in 2002, with the 13th overall pick, the Capitals took Alexandre Semin, and 17th overall, Boyd Gordon. By 2004, they had Ovechkin at 1st overall. Still in the 1st round, they added Mike Green, defenseman, at 29th overall. They took Center Nicklas Backstrom 4th overall, in 2006. They picked up Clark, Brashear and Federov in trades or free agency. They drafted Eric Fehr, 18th overall, in 2003. Tomas Fleischman the Caps picked up as a 2nd round pick, in 2002, 63rd overall. By 2007, the Caps had added Viktor Kozlov, from the NY Islanders. Brooks Laich was 2001 pick in the sixth round, 193rd overall. (Probably some “throw away” pick the Caps managed to acquire in some deal or other.) Shaone Morrison was a former 1st round pick, 19th overall, in 2001. Michael Nylander was acquired amidst controversy. Edmonton can gripe all they want. They had to get a signed contract, accepted by both parties, and submitted in a timely manner. Brian Pothier the Caps picked up on a nice 4-year/$10 million deal, in free agency. Ottawa should have kept him. Ottawa had acquired Pothier from the Thrashers in the Shawn MacEachern deal. Tom Poti, I think they got from free agency. Jeff Schultz, not the AJC writer, the Caps drafted 27th overall, in the 1st round, in 2004. Center David Steckel was a 1st round pick, 30th overall, in 2001. Anyone keeping track of the 1st round picks that wound up on the Caps roster? Jose Theodore was acquired in Free Agency, I think. GM George McPhee should at least be given some credit for the assembly of this roster, and coaching staff. It appears the Capitals are headed to a second straight division title.

Last year, the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs, in Game Seven, in overtime. The team that defeated them, the Philadelphia Flyers, advanced to the Conference Finals.

exSTH

February 26th, 2009
5:42 pm

“We got ourself a real statistician here”…but the Caps do not have the goaltending necessary to get thru the East Conference Championship.

mknobler

February 26th, 2009
6:57 pm

Slater still out. Oystrick sits, too.

Flyers, Red Wings and Wild are scouting.

mknobler

February 26th, 2009
7:01 pm

**ExSth** With LaVallee back in Chicago (as was mentioned in the Colin Stuart story), they are at 22, with one extra D man and one extra forward. (Slater and Oystrick, tonight. Might be Christensen and Oystrick or Valabik on Saturday.)

mknobler

February 26th, 2009
7:08 pm

Technically, I should say they are at 21, since Slater is on IR. But he won’t be for long.

Terptwin

February 26th, 2009
7:35 pm

Brendan–Brooks Laich came to Washington in a 2004 deadline deal with Ottawa for none other than Peter Bondra, one of the greatest players in Caps history.

Tony C.

February 26th, 2009
8:40 pm

If the Caps need goaltending, I’m sure that they could send Antzler to Chicago for Khabibulin. They have that kid Valomansky (spl?) waiting in the wings, and he’s supposed to be a real stud. So much so, that “Gravedigger” McPhee has adamantly refused to “fast-track” him through the minors-the intent being that the kid learns to win at the minor-league level so that when he has a hard time forgetting a bad loss it isn’t on NHL ice.

I don’t trust non-juicy Theodore either, but I don’t know that anyone would give up the “missing piece” to the Caps without a VERY hefty return (no, Nylander wouldn’t fit that bill-not now anyway).

I mean who would you ask for if McPhee came calling for Kari? And, once Mcphee got done laughing about you being serious when you asked for Backstrom, who would you actually take?

If I’m McPhee I give [CENSORED] a call and get Theodore his juice, I mean, why not? the Rogaine excuse is already in place.

stendec

February 26th, 2009
8:48 pm

Toiletlids tried to bail Kari Letemin out! Two early marshmallow goals were matched. Third whiff job was not! Almost allowed fourth goal at close of second period. Chalk this one up in loss column. When will John Petrino take this son of a betch Finn out of the net? Be nice to close miserable campaign on a slightly positive upbeat note! Guess ball-less untalented LaLa Land golden boy will play just well enough down the stretch in defeats to land a new contract! On that day I wash my hands of this uncaring heartless group forevermore. Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on you. Once is more than enough in these quarters!

stendec

February 26th, 2009
9:08 pm

Kari Letemin is a mother (X) son of a betch! To all you brainless a##holes who want this sieve fraud inked to a lifetime deal – move the Hell out of town! Let people who damn know what hockey is all about enjoy this wonderful sport. Send these quiteers to Hamilton (or anywhere) so a real team can situate in town once more. DAMN!

stendec

February 26th, 2009
9:35 pm

Another totally gutless effort from a completely heartless team! As for mindless drones (cannot in good conscious refer to any of you as fans) who want Kari Letemin to stay. Any halfway intelligent hockey watcher will be quick to point out that a netminder who consistently allows four goals per outing is not worth a damn. To Hell with save percentage! Save percentages are nice at contract time but worthless as far as wins are concerned. A loss is a loss! I have had my damn fill of those with the Finn wonder fool between the pipes. Outclassed by a damn rookie? Sigh. Par for the damn course!

B. Thenet

February 26th, 2009
9:45 pm

The Thrashers were lucky to get 3 goals versus a sub par goaltender in the Caps net.

Again, hard to blame Kari when almost all the damage was done on the PP.

The reason the Thrashers were in the box is because their GM is better at drafting than our GM. The Caps are bigger, faster, and tougher, that is very tough to overcome.

Get The Puck Out

February 26th, 2009
10:00 pm

If you’ll notice the Trashers stayed in the penalty box more than they stayed on the ice. Bonehead penalties in the second and third period sealed the deal. I think Lets played OK considering they had twice as many SOG, and it was five on four almost half the game. If it upsets you so much to watch the thrashers lose maybe you need to start watching another sport– like water polo.

Terptwin

February 26th, 2009
10:37 pm

It’s no secret to NHL fans, players and coaches. In order for the Caps to advance in the playoffs, they’ll need to improve at the blue line and in between the pipes.

One defender who might be recalled in time for the playoffs is Karl Alzner. After rating as high as 4th best defender in camp, Alzner was sent down to Hershey for cap reasons. Alzner has not disappointed Bears fans, amassing 2 goals, 10 assists and a +18 rating. (He also filled in pretty well for the Caps during their injury-plagued holiday season.)

As far as goaltending is concerned, Jose Theodore has improved but still has lapses of concentration. (Recall his game against the Flyers this past weekend.) Another concern is that their able backup Brent Johnson is out indefinitely following hip surgery. Unless George McPhee makes a move, the Caps will need to press blue-chip prospects Michal Neuvirth and/or Simeon Varlamov into playoff backup duties. (The 20 year old Neuvirth would be the guy now since Varlamov is just returning from the IR.) Pretty heady stuff considering Michal started the season with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.

At the deadline, I really don’t see GMGM dealing for Kari Lehtonen. While Kari is talented, he’s not big game tested. He’s also quite injury prone. I’m not sure George wants to take on that risk. From what George has said, he would rather find a stud D-man and stick with his goalie prospects.

Then again, I’m just an armchair GM!

Brendan

February 26th, 2009
10:44 pm

Terptwin, absolutely correct. Especially about Bondra, one of the league’s most pure snipers, ever. Bondra finished with 503 goals and nearly 900 points, in 1,081 games.

Brooks Laich was traded on February 18, 2004, from Ottawa along with the Senators’ 2nd round choice in the 2005 draft, for Peter Bondra. The Caps traded that 2nd rounder to Colorado, who selected Chris Durand. Laich was Ottawa’s 7th pick, in 2001, 193rd overall.

Jose Theodore ‘may’ surprize his critics in this year’s playoffs. That said, I was genuinely stunned when the Capitals did not re-sign Cristobal Huet, whom they acquired from Montrea for a 2nd round pick at last year’s trade deadline. Huet played all seven of Washington’s 2008 playoff games, posting a 2.93 GAA, and a save percentage of .909.

It’s still difficult for me to think of Olaf Kolzig as anything other than a Washington Capital. I bet the Caps would like to have someone like him as “plan B,” if Theodore falters. Washington will not ask for Kari Lehtonen. And why would Atlanta want to deal its best goaltender, who is still an RFA, to a division rival anyway?

How old is Kari? 25-26? He’s still got his prime years ahead of him. I think Waddell has nothing but re-signing him on his mind. And I further feel Waddell “isn’t worried about it,” since RFA offersheets seem unlikely for Kari, and Kari hasn’t put up the kind of numbers that would command anything more than $3.5 million. I could see Waddell going 4-years/$14.6 million, for Kari. Even at a cap hit of $3.65 million, he’s not breaking the bank.

How ‘bad’ would it look if AN-NOTHER 2nd overall pick walked out the door? I think DWad has no choice, if only for P.R. purposes, to re-ink Kari to a multi-year deal. At least this way, he’d have Kari locked up as a ‘backup’ goalie, if he decides to look to free agency at some point for a #1 guy, if Pavelec doesn’t turn into that #1 goalie. Pavelec should be PROACTIVELY re-signed this offseason. But Atlanta won’t do it. It’s a questionably-run, minor league organization. Why break a long trend of procrastination and overpayment of players? Why re-ink him on July 1, 2009, when you can OVERPAY him in June 2010? The Thrashers are like a government spending program, always looking to over-produce bills and stimulate inflation.

mknobler

February 26th, 2009
11:22 pm

My game story is about the futility of allowing a team like the Capitals to have eight power plays. But, even though it was a 1-1 game at even strength, Washington was the better team almost all night. The final score flatters the Thrashers, who looked overmatched for much of the game. Only Stendec would blame Kari Lehtonen, who faced 40 shots, 30 of them in the first two periods.

I spoke with Eric Perrin about the last two of his three penalties, both of which left him shaking his head. He was most unhappy about the boarding call. He’s listed at 5 feet 9, 180, and he’s certainly no bigger, if that. David Steckel is 6–5, 217. Perrin would have a tough time knocking him over if Perrin skated at him full-speed. And he didn’t.

“I felt that I let up on the guy, and I felt that he dramatized the situation,” Perrin said. “For a small guy like me to make that much of an impact, and especially holding up …

“The third one, I saw the stick in my way going to the net, and I just moved it out of the way. I didn’t know if it was broken or not. I just thought it was in my way so I moved it. I didn’t see [Sergei] Fedorov. I guess he was behind me trying to pick it up. It is a call. I can’t argue that.”

Jimbo

February 27th, 2009
8:41 am

The 8 penalties can be traced to a lack of player discipline and poor coaching. I watched the game on Center Ice and the caps announcers were astounded at the lack of discipline against a team with a great power play. Where in the heck is Anderson in this picture? Why doesn’t the game plan for the day include stressing the need to avoid stupid penalties and the benching of those who commit them? Perrin is a joke of an NHL forward. Too small to move anyone. Mediocre at best offensively and consistently takes hooking penalties- and a blatant boarding penalty right after another Thrasher penalty. Why in the world was he still on the ice after that? Why is he still on the team? Watch the playoffs, teams are able to play close, tight checking defense without taking the ticky-tacky pensalties that we continue to take. Where in the world in Anderson?

exSTH

February 27th, 2009
9:58 am

Mike, I agree with others that say it was Lehtonen’s loss! Hell, even Darien Elliott was saying that Kari should have been pulled after letting in the 2nd softie!! Kari was NOT on his game in the 1st period when he should have stepped it up against a division rival and the 1st place team in the SE and against a rookie goalie who looked scared to death! Anderson should have pulled him. Hedberg at least comes in focused to take on the challenge of showing Kari how to do it. I wish Kari gets dealt at the deadline…I have been saying this for months. He’s not currently physically injured, but his mental conditions have ALWAYS been suspect. There will be plenty of free agent goalies this summer.

exSTH

February 27th, 2009
10:18 am

Has anyone checked out the list of UFA goalies? Fernandez, Thomas, Khabibulin, Raycroft, Norrena, Conklin, Roloson, Sabourin, Anderson, Ersberg, Backstrom, Weekes, MacDonald, Valiquette, Gerber, Biron, Nittymaki, Tellqvist, Garon, Boucher, Kolzig, Joseph, Labarbera, B. Johnson. Not to mention a few might be available from the Russian league (ie. Emery). I know a handfull of these guys will retire but of the 25 mentioned, I would take at least 15 over Lehtonen! Come on DW, get something for him while you got the chance!

ranallo10 (in AT)

February 27th, 2009
10:29 am

With the defensive problems this team has, it wouldn’t really matter who is in goal. Unless a top forward can be had for Lethonen, I wouldn’t want to see him leave. He’s young, likes the city, and despite most people’s complaints is still a very talented goalie. With a better defense I believe he’d excel.

The other issue is luring a top UFA goalie to Atlanta. What would you sell them on? The defense?? The status of the team?? The lack of funds to spend to adequately surround them with a supporting cast???

No matter who the goalie is, this team will still struggle to win consistently. Trading Lehtonen for the sake of removing him from the roster will not fix anything, in my opinion. Unless the return is substantial (i.e. top line forward or defender, top prospect + high pick), I don’t think it’s worth dealing him “just because”.

exSTH

February 27th, 2009
10:43 am

Buffalo needs a goalie and I already proposed in the past Lehts (and even Christensen, Perrin, Slater, or Thorburn, if needed) for Afinagenov, Connolly or Kotalik. I also blogged in the past to Philly for Upshall or even VanRiemsdyk. There’s your top line forward and/or prospect.

Jimbo

February 27th, 2009
10:54 am

Goaltending is not our problem. It’s the gang in front of them. They are mediocre performers who lack size and grit- an apparently pride. In addition, the coach’s so called “System” (whatever it may be) doesn’t have the forwards standing up wings at the blue line. Forget the Kari must go cries and focus on the beadwood in the 4 lines, head coach and GM.

ranallo10 (in AT)

February 27th, 2009
11:39 am

I understand what you’re saying exSTH, but realistically it’s not that easy. Neither team you mentioned needs Lehtonen, they each have a solid starting goalie. Philadelphia has two goalies capable of starting, and I’d say Lehtonen is only better than one of them (though with a proper defense, I would argue that Lehtonen could be better than both). Miller is under contract through the 2013-2014 season.

For any acquiring team you mention in a Lehtonen trade, the same complaints you make about him will be made from the acquiring team. Why would any team trade a top forward or defender for a goalie with mental instability, a weak glove hand, blue hair, or whatever other excuses people use for explaining why he is not Martin Brodeur?

There is not much of a market for goalies (Huet for a 2nd rounder, Bryzgalov off the waiver wire, LaBarbere for a 7th rounder, Garon for a backup goalie + average player + 4th rounder, etc)…so acquiring a “missing piece” for Lehtonen is unrealistic. There are better options available via trade including most of the pending UFAs you already mentioned.

A trade of Lehtonen is not likely, in my opinion. If Van Riemsdyk were truly available, I would support such a move…but I highly doubt his name was ever realistically mentioned when discussing Lehtonen.

Dwayne Johnson

February 27th, 2009
11:45 am

Keep KL, trade KL. what to do? what to do?
Jimbo, i agree with you about the “team” defense. There is none. It would not matter if you had MB in his prime, he would get tired, mentally and physically, at facing 35+ shots per night.