Browsing all articles tagged with Semyon Varlamov
Sep
1

George McPhee Owns the NHL: Washington Capitals 2011 Offseason

George McPhee has sent a message to the NHL and to Caps fans – the time to win is now.

It’s been an exciting offseason for the Capitals. After another playoff disappointment, a lot of fans were looking for the team to make major changes. Most were hoping the changes would start with head coach Bruce Boudreau. I was not of those fans. I’m glad to see coach Boudreau get another year. But I also know this is his last shot to take this team deep into the playoffs.

General Manager George McPhee went out this offseason and used free agency to help get Boudreau and the Caps get over the hump. McPhee’s nickname is the Undertaker but after this offseason should it be changed it to Yoda? The guy pulled off the biggest Jedi mind trick in history.

It was pretty obvious that goalie Semyon Varlamov was not going to be re-signing with the Capitals. His agent was making it clear that Varly would rather play in the KHL then backup Michael Neuvirth. So McPhee got on the phone and somehow convinced the Colorado Avalanche to give the Capitals a first and second round draft pick in 2012. If the Avalanche fail to make the playoffs that first pick has potential to be a lottery pick. The Caps received these picks for an unproven goalie that hasn’t played a full season in his short, injury-riddled career. As details of the trade made their way around the hockey community, Twitter exploded with comments on how McPhee had hoodwinked the Avalanche into a terrible trade.

The beauty about the Varlamov trade is that it took away the market for Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun to the Capitals had been rumored for nearly two years and when he finally became a free agent, the Capitals were there to sign him. Trading Varly to the Avalanche eliminated all other teams in need of a goaltender. The Capitals were then able to sign Vokoun to a meager one year deal worth only 1.5 millions dollars. Vokoun is an obvious and instant upgrade at goalie and gives the Capitals one of a top five NHL goaltenders.

The additions of defenseman Roman Hamrlik and right winger Troy Brouwer bring Stanley Cup experience to the team. But the Capitals didn’t need to completely overhaul their line-up. They’re still the winningest team in the regular season over the last 3 years. They resigned center Brooks Laich to a six year deal. The offensive core of winger Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and Laich will be around for a while. Consistency is key if you want to be a cup contender for years to come. The team also signed former captain center Jeff Halpern to a one year deal. Long time Caps fans loved that signing but nearly as much as the team bringing back former goalie Olaf Kolzig as an associate goalie coach.

This offseason the Caps kept their core roster intact while adding Stanley Cup experienced players and upgrading the goalie position. George McPhee improved what was already one of the best teams in the NHL. Will it translate into a Stanley Cup Championship? I hope so.

May
7

R.I.P. Washington Capitals 2010-2011

Another year, another playoff disappointment for the Washington Capitals. But should we really be surprised? The Caps weren’t the favorite to make it out of the Eastern Conference going into the playoffs, despite finishing first overall in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t until after game one against the New York Rangers that people started to call the Capitals the best team in the East. But after a quick series win in round one fans wanted more. Just when it seemed like this team had turned the corner, they fell flat.

The biggest question now that the season is over is whether or not head coach Bruce Boudreau should get fired. In my opinion, no. The playoff failure is hard to overlook, especially after being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. His playoff record is 17-19, and he has only won two of six playoff series. Not good. But I’m going to argue that this was Boudreau’s best season as a head coach. After an eight game losing streak (all caught on tape during HBO’s 24/7), most people had written this year’s team off. The Caps weren’t going anywhere and Boudreau’s head was being called for. Still, General Manager George McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis had faith in the coach and didn’t fire him.

After being destroyed 6-0 by the New York Rangers in February, Boudreau changed the team’s style of play. The once offensive juggernaut became a defense oriented team. The Caps were blocking shots and getting back to stifle odd man rushes from the opposing teams. In a month the Washington Capitals went from fifth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Southeast division to first. Boudreau should have been nominated for the Jack Adams award. To change the team’s style of play midseason and bounce back to take first place in the second half of the season is impressive.

If you believe McPhee and Leonsis when they say the team is still ahead of schedule then there should be no questions about Boudreau’s job security. Despite the playoff loss, the Capitals had a great season. They were able to overcome a tough losing streak midseason, hang another Southeast Division banner in the Verizon Center rafters, and finish first overall in Eastern Conference. And the future is bright for Caps.

For the first time since trading goalie Olaf Kolzig the Capitals are finally stable in net. Goaltender Michael Neuvirth has proven himself worthy to be the Caps number one goalie. Neuvirth had a great regular season followed by an incredible series against the Rangers. While Neuvirth didn’t help the Caps win any games against the Lightning, he was able to come up with big save after big save to keep the Caps in games. Goalies Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby are both quality backups and have proven they can start and win games for the Caps. Goaltending is not an issue this offseason.

The Capitals young players will have more experience next year. Defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner were the Caps best defensive pairing all year and were in their first full season together. Carlson did struggle in the playoffs but next year we will see a continuation of improved play. Center Marcus Johansson’s play improved all season. The Caps will look for him to step up into that second line center role next season.

Players who were brought in at the trade deadline like center Jason Arnott and left winger Marco Sturm will most likely not be back with the team next year. Defenseman Scott Hannan is a question. He played well but with Dennis Wideman under contract for next year, Hannan might not be brought back. It would be nice to have these players back, but they may not be needed with the younger talent stepping up.

The Capitals will have to stick top Boudreau’s new defensive minded scheme next season to be successful in the playoffs. But they also need to find their heart. Yes the power play was woeful. Yes, their stellar penalty kill let them down in the playoffs. Yes, center Nick Backstrom was a nonfactor in the playoffs. But this team just didn’t have the drive to win a championship this year. It’s not just in the playoffs. Too many times this season the Capitals didn’t even show up to play until the third period. By the time the team turned it on and played hard, it was too late. The Caps didn’t come close to being a good as they could’ve been because they just don’t try hard all the time.

It was a fun hockey season and a frustrating one. And for another year, it ends in disappointment for Caps fans. But I want to say thank you the Washington Capitals for another year of hockey. It was a season of highs and lows and while it ended on a low note, it was still a great season.

I can’t wait for the 2011-2012 season to start.

Apr
2

Episode 48 – The April Fool’s Show?

Mark is joined by Tom Threlkeld from DC Pro Sports Report for a discussion on the Redskins Draft,the Caps playoff chances, the Nats, Wizards, and United rebuilding efforts, and some MMA talk! Please check out Tom’s site at DC Pro Sports Report!

Please remember to vote and rate us on iTunes! Or if you’re not using iTunes as your podcast manager subscribe through the feed!

Redskins

  • Tom from DC Pro Sports Report previews of the Redskins draft and a breakdown of their needs

Capitals

  • Caps regain 1st place in the Southeastern Divison, clinch playoff spot
  • Goaltending carousel – Holtby goes back and forth from Hershey to DC. Neuvirth appears to be the starter for the playoffs?
  • With recent injuries and the goalies returning from inactivity will the Caps be healthy enough for the playoffs?

Wizards

  • Flip tries outs 5 Rookies on the floor
  • Do the Wiz have the right pieces in place for rebuilding?

MMA

  • UFC Parent company Zuffa buys only remaining American rival Strikeforce
  • Bellator Championships debut on MTV2
  • Jon Jones beat Shogun Hua to become youngest UFC champion ever

MLB

  • Preview of the Nats upcoming season

United

  • United signs Charlie Davies
  • Does United have the right pieces in places to rebuild?

 

Feb
8

Washington Capitals – Post All Star Break Outlook

If you’re a Capitals fan this season has been frustrating and even disappointing for some. Whenever I go out in public rocking the red someone always asks, “What’s wrong with Caps?” While the team is in the top eight in the Eastern Conference and is only three points out of first place in the Southeast division, the offensive juggernaut fans have come to expect over the past couple of years seems to be gone. It’s time for for Caps fans to change their ideas on what the 2010-2011 team should look like.

The Caps have put up two of their best performances this season in back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In both games the team was clicking on all cylinders, managing to find the net often in the game against the Lightning and getting solid defensive play against the Penguins. Against Tampa the Caps big guns were rolling as Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, Alex Ovechkin found the net on the power play, and Brooks Laich scored a sweet backhand shot that beat Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson.

The Caps came out skating well against Tampa Bay and for the first time in a while put together a complete sixty minute game. They were physical, put pressure on Roloson, took advantage of the power play, and in turn played one of their best games of the year. They continued to skate well against the Pittsburgh which added up to  consecutive  victories. For the first time this season they looked good in two straight games.

Despite what most would consider a terrible season for last year’s President Cup winner, the team has improved on defense and the penalty kill, their biggest flaws last year. Coach Bruce Boudreau’s offseason commitment to change the team’s game plan and make the Caps  more defensive-minded has paid off big time. General Manager’s George McPhee’s move to bring defender Scott Hannan to DC has helped solidify a much improved defensive unit.

We all knew last year that  defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner were going to be a strong pairing playing full time in DC  but I don’t think anyone thought that they would step up and be the number one defensive line. While Jeff Shultz has struggled this year and hasn’t come close to his play from last year, when he led the league in plus/minus, other Caps have improved. Mike Green continues to develop his game, he’s becoming a solid defender and not just a goal scorer. The biggest defense shock has been the play of John Erskine. While he’s struggled a little lately, John Erskine was a player that made fans cringe when he hit the ice last season. This year, whether teamed up with Tom Poti or Hannan, Erskine has been a stable and hard-hitting blue liner.

The teams other bright spot has been the goaltending from all three of the Caps netminders. Michael  Neuvirth started the season off hot and shutout the Penguins in his first start back from injured reserve. Semyon Varlamov started the season on injured reserve but as been strong since his return. Braden Holtby struggled early this season and spent a couple months in Hershey. But he was able to come up when Neuvy and Varly were hurt and deliver 2 stellar games for the Caps.

Hockey experts will argue that the Capitals goaltending situation isn’t as solid as it looks. The Capitals goalies have faced the least amount of shots for a team this season (a tribute to the teams solid defensive play) and there two goals a game average isn’t very good for the amount of shots their seeing. It might be a fair point but I’ll take 2 goals a game this season over the three and four Jose Theodore would give up last season. And yes, Varly and Neuvy have given up some soft goals this year (Varly giving up a goal on the first shot he saw against Tampa), but I’m not concerned about their goaltending situation going forward.

The Caps have a tough road ahead of them – they play San Jose twice and end their season on the road against the Penguins. They have a five game road trip in February and a six game road trip in March in which the team will play the Red Wings, Flyers, and the Canadians twice. The Caps haven’t been a good road team this year and and by the time the playoffs roll around, this team will have been tested.

But the past two games we’ve seen Backstrom, Ovechkin, Laich, and Mike Knuble pick up their games and find ways to score. The team is crashing the net and just throwing the puck towards the goal and it’s starting to pay off. The bounces are starting to work in the Caps favor. Sooner or later the team is going to get  left wing Alexander Semin back, who before his first stint on IR was the teams best forward.  Most fans are optimistic that a fully recovered Semin will be back to where he started the season.

The future is bright for the Capitals. I would agree with most fans that this team hasn’t yet reached their full potential and with players getting healthy, the team should make a strong push in the last two months heading for the playoffs. This is still a playoff a team and one that should be taken seriously.