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Postgame Notebook 10-06-07

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals

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A Blanking for the Big Man – Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig didn’t have to make as many saves as he has become accustomed to making over the last two seasons, but he made several big stops when his team needed him to make them.  With 23 saves, Kolzig notched his 35th career shutout and his fourth lifetime against the Carolina franchise.

Kolzig is now fourth all-time in wins vs. Hurricanes franchise with 24.  He trails only Patrick Roy (35), Martin Brodeur (28) and Tom Barrasso (27). Barrasso now employed by Canes as director of goalie development.  Kolzig’s 2.21 career GAA vs. the Canes trails only Martin Brodeur (2.13) and Dominik Hasek (2.20) against the Hartford/Carolina franchise.

Kolzig’s whitewash in the home opener was the team’s first since the first opening night game at Verizon Center on Oct. 10, 1998. The Caps and Kolzig blanked the Anaheim (then Mighty) Ducks that night.

With tonight’s performance from Kolzig, the Caps have limited an opponent to one or fewer goals for the second straight game, a feat they failed to accomplish throughout the 2006-07 season.

Six Straight – Washington’s win over Carolina in its home opener here on Saturday night marks the sixth straight win for the Caps in home opening contests. The Caps last loss in their home opener came exactly seven years ago tonight, when they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings.

That game seven years ago was also the last home opener in which goaltender Olie Kolzig did not start. He had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery late in training camp that fall, and sat out the first three contests of the 2000-01 season. Backup Craig Billington was the starter in that game against the Kings.

Saturday also marks just the fourth time in 33 seasons that Washington has opened the season with consecutive wins. The last time the Caps opened the campaign by going 2-0 was 2002-03, when they won three straight to start the campaign. That is also the last season in which the Capitals reached the playoffs.

Swift Starts – For the second straight night, the Caps played a tremendous first period. Washington dominated the Canes in the first, holding them without a shot on goal for the first half of the frame. Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined 3-0 in first periods this season and has outshot its opponents by a combined 28-10.

“It’s a different group,” says Caps coach Glen Hanlon. “I’m sure for the people watching they thought ‘What did you do with our team here?’ for the last couple of years. There’s more skill and speed. I’m really excited for the fans. We sense it too. We feel it. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves here. We expected to be 2-0. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

Great Eight – For the third straight home opener, Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net. His goal against Carolina on Saturday was the 99th of his career and marked his 200th NHL point. Ovechkin has a total of five goals in his three home openers in a Caps uniform.

Special Delivery – Washington scored a power play goal on Saturday and prevented the Hurricanes from scoring with the extra man. The Caps now have one power play goal in each game and are a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill.

Teen Sensation – Nicklas Backstrom is the 29th Capital to wear the team’s sweater as a teenager. He is the sixth member of the 2007-08 Capitals to join that exclusive club, taking his place alongside Olie Kolzig, Brian Sutherby. Steve Eminger, Boyd Gordon and Alexander Semin.

Streaking – John Erskine notched an assist on Ovechkin’s goal, giving him the second two-game scoring streak of his NHL career. Erskine’s previous two-game  run came on Feb. 25-27, 2006 when he was a member of the New York Islanders.

Backstrom notched an assist for the second straight game to start his NHL career, and Viktor Kozlov has also picked up a point in each of Washington’s first two games this season.

This Date in NHL History – A former Cap, a good-hands guy and a stalwart European vet are among those who netted their first NHL goals on this day in league history.

Ex-Cap and impending Hall of Famer Scott Stevens scored for Washington at Madison Square Garden on this date in 1982. That same night, future Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk scored the first of his 640 NHL goals when he tallied for Buffalo in a game against the Quebec Nordiques. Finally, the fine Finn Teppo Numminen scored his first goal in the league for Winnipeg at Vancouver on this date in 1988.

Missing Mike – Carolina was without defenseman Mike Commodore,  who sat out because of lingering soreness he sustained making a hit in the Hurricanes’ opener against Montreal on Wednesday. Commodore’s  214 hits were fourth among all NHL blueliners last season; he also tied for league lead among blueliners with five shorthanded points.

For Absent Friends – Opening night wasn’t quite the same here this year without the longtime dean of Washington hockey writers in attendance.  Washington Times beat reporter Dave Fay passed away in mid-July, and his customary press box spot remains vacant this season in his memory. Prior to his customary press conference after each home game, Caps bench boss Glen Hanlon can be seen patting the wall in the spot where Dave always stood after games.  Dave’s wife Pat, his son Michael and his grand-daughter Serena were guests in Ted Leonsis’s suite for the opener on Saturday. 

We miss you, buddy.
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