Kukla's Korner

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Green’s Return

With last night’s 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, the Washington Capitals remained perfect, with Mike Green that is.  Despite the fact that the Capitals currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, they are actually now 9-0 when Mike Green is in the line-up.  Last night marked his first game since taking a hit from Devils’ forward Ryan Carter on November 11, 2011. 

We learned last week that Green’s injury might never fully heal.  As such, it became important for his reinsertion into the line-up be as gradual as possible.  Hunter decided to ease the process by choosing to scratch Matthieu Perreault (Semin also scratched for injury) and dress 7 defensemen.  It definitely made for some odd line combinations at time, including a shift that put Ovechkin and Hendricks on the ice together.  Green spent the majority of his ice time (15:43) skating with rookie Dmitri Orlov.  With Orlov regularly joining the rush, Green was able to play a bit more passively, lowering injury risk.  He did see a little bit of PP time, but was kept out of penalty killing situations.

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Capitals Down Rangers 4-1

Given the poor starts the Capitals have had in recent games, it was understandable to be concerned for the arrival of the high-flying Rangers on Wednesday.  Maybe the game against the Sabres was a wake-up call because the Capitals were clearly more prepared for this game.

Between the Pipes: The last time the Capitals tangled with the Rangers, the Caps were completely outplayed in a 6-3 loss.  In that game Michal Neuvirth gave up 6 goals on 33 shots while Henrik Lundqvist only needed to make 18 saves to get his team the W.  This time around both teams opted for a goaltender change.  After Neuvirth’s poor performance against Buffalo, Vokoun got the start against Martin Biron, who was giving Lundqvist the night off.  Even though Biron is no longer the goalie he was in the 2008 playoffs, he is still quite capable, entering Wednesday’s game with a 7-1 record.

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Another Slow Start

Last Friday, the Capitals spotted the Devils a 3-goal lead before scoring 3 in the 3rd to force OT.  Although they did end up losing in the shootout, the Capitals were lucky enough to overcome a sleepy start to leave New Jersey with a point.  Last night in Buffalo, the Caps were not as lucky.  The Sabres roared out of the gate, putting 3 behind Michal Neuvirth in the first 10 minutes, and then another past Vokoun.  The Capitals were able to hold them off the score sheet the remainder of the game, but only mustered 2 of their own.

The Capitals were essentially doomed from the start, as Roman Hamrlik was called for delay of game only 9 seconds from the start of play.  Less than a minute later, Drew Stafford found space between Alzner and Wideman and had an easy feed to Jason Pominville, who easily put the puck past Michal Neuvirth.  Three minutes later, the Sabres were able to add another off a seemingly innocent play.  Matt Hendricks won a defensive zone draw back to Karl Alzner.  No sooner had Alzner received the puck, Matt Ellis simply grabbed it off of his stick and threw a back-hander past Neuvirth.  Neuvirth would only last another 6 minutes, as he would be pulled for Vokoun after a Christian Ehroff point shot found its way past Michal’s blocker.  While the first 2 goals were defensives gaffs, this one shouldn’t have been in back of the net.  The Sabres would add a 4th goal, 2nd on the PP, 3 minutes later.  Brad Boyes easily cut across the slot and feed Brayden McNabb, who fired home his first of his career.

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Neuvirth Shuts Out Jets

To say that the Capital’s goaltending has been subpar in the first third of the season would be a bit of an understatement.  Tomas Vokoun, who I thought would be a revelation in net, has struggled to find his rhythm.  While his numbers aren’t awful, 12-8; 2.81; .906, Tomas has yet to be good enough to steal games for the Caps.  Neuvirth, meanwhile, was has been downright bad.  Yes, he was hung out to dry in a few games under Bruce, but this still has not been the Neuvy that we saw last year.  Last night in Winnipeg, Michal took a big step to returning to form. 

Neuvirth stopped all 26 shots the Jets threw out him, en route to his first shutout of the season and his 5th career.  At times, he was the only thing keeping the Caps in the game, specifically a first period that saw the Jets outshoot the Caps 14-7 and outchance them 8-4.  Even as the Caps’ offense came to life in the second half of the game, Michal was needed as the Jets were able to muster up a few odd-man rushes.  Even better than his statline was how he looked on the ice.  He was out challenging, something he had not done consistently since the first game of the season.  Although I still believe Vokoun can succeed, I think that Neuvirth has probably earned the next few starts.  It very well could be that Neuvirth’s poor play was simply a result of the injury he picked up in the first week of the season.  Hopefully Neuvirth’s resurgence will push Vokoun to find his stride.

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Talking Caps with Mick Kern

Today I had the pleasure of joining Mick Kern on Sirius XM HomeIce’s The War Room to talk about the recent coaching change(s).  It was a great experience for my first radio interview.  Here is the audio.

Some other quick notes to get out:

 

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A New Era

The Dale Hunter era of the Washington Capitals officially began last night with a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.  Despite getting the lead first, thanks to Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals were unable to give Dale a win on his first night behind the bench.

As expected, Hunter received a warm homecoming from the Verizon Center crowd.  His infamous game 7-OT goal against Philadelphia was shown numerous times, and the fans were able to take in a video montage of Hunter’s time in D.C. during a TV timeout.  Despite the “butterflies in the tummy,” Dale looked at home behind the bench and seemed to be constantly in the ear of the players.

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Bruce Out; Hunter In

added 2:05pm (Paul), added video below of GM George McPhee explaining the change.


Shortly after 8 am this morning, the Washington Capitals announced that Bruce Boudreau had been fired after 4 years as the head coach, having been replaced by former Capital captain, Dale Hunter.  Hunter played 12 seasons with the Washington Capitals and is the only NHL player to have amassed 1,000 career points and 3,000 PIMs.  He had spent the last 10 years coaching the OHL’s London Knights, having coached both John Carlson and Dennis Wideman.  This will be Hunter’s first ever NHL coaching job.

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F Street Perspective: Strategy

Earlier this week, Bruce Boudreau celebrated his 4-year anniversary as bench boss for the Washington Capitals.  Nobody can doubt the amazing work he has done in those 4 years.  He took a team that had not made the playoffs in 4 years and turned them into a perennial contender almost immediately.  He is generally given the majority of the credit from taking the Caps from last in the East to a division title.  The team gradually improved over the next few seasons, culminating in a monster 2009-2010 season that saw the Caps notch 54 wins while tallying over 300 goals.  The following year, despite leading the East again, was a step back as they struggled a bit in implementing Bruce’s new hybrid defense.

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Caps Dominated; Fall to Leafs 7-1

After starting the season to a sizzling 7-0 start, the Capitals have now lost 4 straight and 6 of the last 7.  To make matters worse, the Capitals scored only 1 goal in each of their games this week, while allowing the other team to cash in for 14.  To say that the Capitals are in a bad place is an understatement.  On to the goals.

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Loss to Nashville(3-1) Notes

The Washington Capitals lost to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night by a score of 3-1.  After playing 50+ scoreless minutes, Brouwer took a pass from Johansson off the rush and fired a wrister past Rinne.  What looked to be the lone goal in a game dominated by both goaltenders quickly faded as Nashville quickly drew even and added a winner with under a minute to go.  Shea Weber would salt the game with an empty netter from the neutral zone.

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.

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