Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Favorite Kolzig Moment

It would be a disservice not to mention and reminisce on the great career Olie Kolzig had as an NHLer, but more importantly as a Washington Capital. Kolzig was the face of this franchise for upwards of 15 years. Drafted in 1989, Kolzig played in 719 NHL games and racked up 3o3 wins. Even though Kolzig's exit from DC wasn't on the greatest of terms, Kolzig will go down as one of the all-time great Capitals players. There is no question in my mind that the number 37 will soon have it's place in the rafters. I'm not at all surprised that a poll by Capitals beat writer Tarik El-Bashir had overwhelming support for retiring Kolzig's number. HERE is a link to the poll if you wish to vote or simply see the results.
I don't expect Kolzig to take part in any Brett Favre or Roger Clemens shenanigans, so I suspect we won't be seeing Kolzig on the ice again. So it is this announcement that got me thinking about my favorite Kolzig moments. My favorite moment is unconventional to say the least. The obvious choice would be the spring of 1998 when Kolzig lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals against the Red Wings. Perhaps if the Caps weren't smothered by the Wings to the tune of a four game sweep my favorite moment would be different. Who can forget the Vezina Trophy Kolzig won that same year. A crowning achievement envied by most goalies who taste life between the pipes in the NHL. Kolzig was also an Olympian competing for his native Germany. I could imagine some die hard fans feeling pride about their goalie representing his country. But none of these moments, in my opinion, come close to what happened November 21, 1998.
It was your typical regular season game. It was only a month into the season so the games didn't have the same meaning as they did later on, say......after Christmas. The Capitals were playing the Bruins and losing to the count of 2-0. If you remember that '98 team, the Caps were by no means short on enforcers. Dale Hunter, Craig Berube, and Mark "taunting" Tinordi had no trouble keeping the peace. It all started with tough guys Craig Berube and Don Sweeney throwing the gloves down and proceeding with a typical fight that was basically an assumed occurance. It took all of 30 seconds before it to turn into an all out melee.
Anybody who followed Dale Hunter's career knows what kind of hockey player he was. He's been described as dirty and cheap. He was a premier instigator and agitator in his day. So it was to nobody's real surprise that he gave Byron Dafoe a little love tap which started a chain of events that lead to an extremely rare occurance in hockey. That would be two goalies throwing each other! This went on for more than 5 minutes.
The thing that made this so great was that Kolzig, and Bruins netminder, Byron Dafoe were and still are best friends. They were the best men in each others weddings. When was the last time you saw an NHL fight in which the participants were grinning and laughing. This only happens when two best friends drop the gloves with each other. I can even imagine Kolzing and Dafoe drawing this up as a joke while drinking a few beers at a local bar. I'm not suggesting this was planned, but it was almost to good to be spur of the moment. Perhaps we'll never know. Sure friends fight, but two NHL goaltenders, who are best friend no less, is something I doubt we'll ever see again. Here is the You Tube clip of the fight. It's a classic and endlessly entertaining.
I know I know, perhaps I'll get some flack for not picking a moment that truly celebrates Kolzig's career. I whole heartedly appreciate him as the face of this franchise and for his accomplishments, but the fight with his best friend, Byron Dafoe, has to be my single favorite moment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now Presenting Hockey Indpendent

Just a quick plug for the new website I will now be blogging on. The site is I will be concentrating on the Washington Capitals and will be posting 2-3 times a week, hopefully.

Hockey Independent will have representation for all 30 NHL teams. The writing staff includes fully credentialed writers, up and coming writers, seasoned NHL bloggers, and die hard hockey fans. All will be providing a voice not only for their teams, but for hockey as a whole. I strongly urge you all to visit the site and read as many articles as you can. If you want to focus on the Caps, you can read my post of those of Steve Hindle. But don't limit yourself. This site is full of great opinions that encourage debate and conversation.

I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 1: News and Notes

Just a few notes on the opening day of camp today at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

1. Fleishmann out with a diagnosed blood clot in his leg. This reportedly occured during a flight to his native Czech Republic earlier this summer. Fleishmann is out until the beginning of October. Who may take his spot opening night if Flash cannot return?

2. Perfect lead into my second note. Skating in place of Flash on the second line with Brendan Morrison and Alex Semin was Hersey Bear sniper Alexandre Giroux. Giroux's goal totals a year ago totaled over 70! This included regular and post season games. Giroux saw time with the Caps last season but is yet to be paired with high skilled players. Most of the time Giroux is placed on the 4th line checking line. I think Giroux could really be an impact player is placed with impact players. i.e. Alex Semin. Alex Ovechkin didn't score 70 goals.

3. Michael Nylander is still a Capital. Reports are there are negotiations happening between the Caps and numerous KHL teams. All this and Nylander "wants to be a Cap". If GMGM has his way, Nyls will be playing in Europe next season. An interesting note, Nylander's family didn't make the trip from Sweden. Perhaps he has a gut feeling his time here is Washington is coming to and end. Time will tell.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Next Season's Most Intriguing Games

Next season's schedule has been out for a few weeks now. I took a few minutes the other day to browse through the various match ups and was particularly drawn to the following five games. I initially created a list of 10 games but have since then boiled it down to five. Here they are.

Oct. 6 Capitals v. Flyers
The Caps will be flying right out of the gate.....pun intended. It is a rare occurence to see the Caps take on the Flyers this early in a season. This budding rivalry will take on a very different look this year. Flyers made a big time addition in Chris Pronger which was without question a move to hamper the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. Afterall, if the Flyers hope to make a run to the finals they will most likely have to meet one or two of those players in a playoff series. This game also marks the return of Mike Knuble to Philadelphia. He was loved by the Philly fans but we all know that Philly fans have memories of about 5 minutes. What have you done for me lately?

Nov. 17 Capitals v. Rangers
Not to much difficulty is making this pick. This will also be the second meeting between these two teams, but the first in the big apple. Still fresh in the minds of Rangers fans is last year's playoff series in which the Rangers squandered a 3-1 series lead. This team is vastly improved in my opinion from last year. Plenty of player movement included acquiring oft-injured sniper Marion Gaborik, Ales Kotilik, Chris Higgins, and now former Cap Donald Brashear. Leaving the Rangers was Scott Gomez who was traded to Montreal. Scoring should be improved for the Rangers and they have the best goalie in the world; Henkrik Lundqvist

Jan. 21 Capitals v. Penguins
It would be an understatement to say that the Capitals are still bitter about how last season ended. No excuse losing a game 7 at home, but that is exactly what happened. Oh yeah, and it was in blowout fashion. This game will be the first of four between this bitter rivalry. Ovechkin v. Crosby is always a marquee match up. Now that Crosby has a Cup, the stakes are even higher for Ovechkin to perform. Make no qualms about it, Ovechkin wants to be the best player in the world, and perhaps he is, but greatness is measured by the number of rings you have. I think we are only seeing the beginning of this rivalry which seemed to have taken a few years off prior to Crosby and OV entering the league. We will be treated to four match ups in the last half of the season. Should be exciting.

Mar. 25 Capitals v. Hurricanes
Never lacking entertainment are match ups between the Hurricanes and Capitals. This is especially true when a possible division championship is at stake. The Caps will not have a cake walk to the division title this year. Coming off a trip to the conference finals, Carolina will pose quite a challenge this year for the Caps. Eric Staal will continue to put up 40 goals and 80-90 points. Roles players like Chad LaRose, Tuomo Ruutu, and Joe Corvo seem to give the Caps fits on a regular basis. Their goalie Cam Ward is possibly the most underrated goalie in the NHL. Carolina always plays well in big games, and since this is the last meeting of the season with division title implications, it should be a dandy.

Apr. 11 Bruins v. Capitals
The last game of the season. Ideally both teams will be resting their star players in preparation for the playoffs. But if your a hockey fan and not partial to either team, you are hoping these two teams are tied for the conference lead with home ice advantage on the line. This is a definite possibility. The Bruins are coming off a season in which they strolled into the playoffs with home ice advantage with relative ease last year. This team is loaded with dynamic forwards, gritty defenseman, and an all-star in net. Zdeno Chara is sure to give OV fits in this match up which may give the Bruins an advantage. This will be fan appreciation day at the phone booth so I expect a win for the Caps in this game. If a conference title is on the line, this very well could be the best game all year.

These are my picks for top 5 games this season. Tell me what you think. What games are you looking forward to?

Go Caps!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Camp Questions In Need of Answers

With the 2009-2010 season just 4 weeks away, there are some questions facing this Caps team as camp is just about ready to begin. In my opinion there are two big question marks. Here they are:

--The goaltending situation. Is Theodore the number 1? Varlamov or Neuvirth?
--How will the defense improve? Who are the sixth and seventh defensemen?

First things first. This team goes nowhere without solid goaltending, as is the case with most teams. But this isn't just any team, this is a team with Stanley Cup aspirations and we all know that unless you have solid goaltending no team comes close to sipping champagne from Lord Stanley's Cup. Saying Theodore has had a tumuluous 5 months is an understatement. First he loses his starting job to Varlamov during last year's playoffs, then he loses his 2 month old son who was born prematurely. Gabby has publically stated that Theo is the starting goalie entering camp, but will Theo be ready to undertake this challenge considering all he's had to endure since the tragedy 1 month ago? Should we even expect him to be ready? I have absolute confidence that he will be ready to when camp starts next week.
I think being pulled from last year's playoffs was a wake-up call for Theo. Just because your the highest paid goalie on the team does not mean your invicible. If you aren't making the saves, somebody else is going to be given the opportunity to make the saves, and Varly took full advantage. I expect Varly to make a run at the number job but but ultimately Theo starts the season as the number one goaltender, but his leash will not be very long. Especially if Varly has a good camp. Ultimately, Neuvirth will be the odd man out, but he's only 20 years old. His time will come.

I don't take much comfort is the fact that the two biggest questions facing the Caps this year are the two must-have's if hoping to win the Cup. I've discussed the goaltending. What about the defense?
Last year's playoffs was a wake up call to the Caps blueline. It proved rather pourous and the Penguins exploited it with relative ease. Still unable to land the piece this team needs most this offseason, a big bruising defenseman. There is still nobody to cause opposing players to think twice about crashing the net. Nobody to clear the crease. I expect this to plague the Caps all year unless a trade can be made. Unfortunately the salary cap situation negated our efforts in landing a big time defenseman. A plethora of defenseman hit the free agent market this offseason; Komisarek, Exelby, Beauchemin, just to name a few. But with money tied up in the long-term contracts of Theodore and Nylander, our ability to make offers for these players was heavily restricted.
So the responsibility lands on the remaining defensemen from last season. Here are my top six D-men for the season opener.


The Caps will most likely carry a seventh defenseman. This should really be an interesting battle during camp. In my opinion it comes down to three players; Schultz, Alzner, and Carlson. Schultz has the most to prove because of his benching during last year's playoffs. Report was he was injured but seriously, come on. Schultz was routinely undressed by opposing forwards, out battled in the corners, and out muscled in the crease. Schultz, who only has one more year on his contract really has to impress during camp.

The answer is Alzner. In 30 games with the Caps last year, Alzner recorded 5 points and was a only a -1. Pretty good for a 21 year old rookie. More importantly though, he was physical and seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. He won the physical battles along the boards. He has a great hockey sense and now has valuable experience gained in the Calder Cup winning campaign last year. With a solid camp, I see no reason why he won't be the seventh man.

Recap: No team wins the Stanley Cup without with solid goaltending and team defense. In my opinion these are the two biggest question marks for the Caps. That leaves me very worried. Nobody can stay with this team offensively but offense never wins championships. I believe the pieces are already in place to drastically improve in these areas. I would gladly trade 5 or 6 of Mike Green's goals for him improve his defense just that much. Yes, he was injured during the playoffs, but his play in his own must improve. Green will be playing for a spot on Team Canada so motivation in his own zone shouldn't be an issue.
We know Theo can make the big saves. But how often? Consistency is the issue with Theo. Will he be consistent? Varly has proven he can make the big saves when called upon. He's proven that on the biggest stage in professional hockey; the NHL playoffs.

Let's go Caps!