By the time January rolled around, the Capitals had escaped the basement of the Eastern Conference standings. As the Caps prepared to host the Ottawa Senators in their traditional New Year’s Day contest, they carried a 15-19-5 record for 35 points, two more than fellow Southeast Division denizen Tampa Bay. Coming off a 7-3-3 month of December, the Caps were looking to carry that momentum into calendar 2008.
Double Drubbing –
Three days after administering an 8-6 whipping to the Senators in Ottawa in the last game on the calendar 2007 portion of the 2007-08 schedule, the Capitals hosted the Sens on New Year’s Day at Verizon Center. The Caps spotted Ottawa a 2-0 lead before roaring back to take a 6-3 decision from the visitors.
In case you’re wondering how long it had been since the Sens surrendered six or more goals in consecutive games, the answer is: “a long time.”
It was so long ago, that Quebec was still in the league. It was so long ago that the consecutive losses dropped Ottawa’s record to 4-24-4 on the season.
We’re talking about Mar. 30 and Apr. 2, 1995 when Ottawa suffered consecutive spankings of 7-0 and 7-5 to Buffalo and Quebec, respectively. Those two setbacks came just days after an 11-4 humbling at the hands of the Nordiques.
You don’t have to go back nearly as far to find the last time the Capitals scored six or more goals in consecutive games, and in fact, the Sens played a hand in that sequence, too. On Dec. 2 and Dec. 6, 2006, the Caps forged consecutive home ice wins of 7-4 and 6-2 over Buffalo and Ottawa, respectively.Double Digits for D-Man –
With his two goals in Tuesday’s win over Ottawa, Washington blueliner Mike Green
climbed to 10 tallies on the season, tying him with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for the lead among all NHL defensemen. Green became the first Washington defenseman to reach double-digits in goals since Sergei Gonchar netted 18 in 2002-03.
With Green’s two goals on Tuesday, Washington defensemen had 22 goals in the team’s 40 games one the season, one more than all Caps defensemen managed in the entire 82-game regular season slate in 2006-07.
Drought Over –
When Green netted his second goal of the game at the 52-second mark of the second period of the Jan. 1 win over Ottawa, it also marked the first time in 2007-08 that the Caps netted a goal with the two-man advantage. Washington had gone 0-for-10 in a total of 9:08 with two extra men on the ice before Green’s goal.
Prior to Green’s marker, Chris Clark had scored Washington’s previous 5-on-3 goal last Mar. 30 against Florida. The Caps went 44 games between goals with the two-man advantage.
Rookie of the Month –
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom
was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for December on Jan. 3. Backstrom totaled five goals and 14 points in his 13 December games.
In Dec. 2005 and Jan. 2006, Alex Ovechkin
copped successive Rookie of the Month Awards, becoming the only Capital ever to achieve that feat. Prior to Ovechkin, goaltender Bob Mason (Dec. 1984), right wing Peter Bondra (Nov. 1990), goaltender Jim Carey (Mar. 1995) and center Jeff Halpern
(Mar. 2000) were the previous Capitals to claim the league’s Rookie of the Month award.A Man Down –
Caps defenseman Brian Pothier skated 15:39 in the Jan. 3 game at Boston, but none of it in the third period. He left the game with what turned out to be a concussion and missed the remainder of the season.Money is Green and Green is Money – Mike Green
scored the second of his club record three overtime game-winning goals on Jan. 5 in a 5-4 win over the Canadiens in Montreal. He joined Calle Johansson as the only Caps defenseman with more than one overtime game-winner in a Washington uniform. Like Green, Johansson scored his OT game-winners as a Capital in the same season, doing so during the 1999-00 campaign.Ovie Inked –
What started out as the team’s annual season ticket holders’ party on Jan. 10 at Verizon Center instead turned into a landmark moment in franchise history when majority owner Ted Leonsis announced that left wing Alex Ovechkin
had agreed to a 13-year contract extension worth a total of $124 million. That pact begins with the 2008-09 season.
“Alex is the cornerstone of our franchise, and I fully believe that he will help us achieve our ultimate goal of being a Stanley Cup team,” chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis said.
“My dream was always to play in the NHL, and Washington is my second home,” Ovechkin said. “I appreciate all that the team has done for me. I love my teammates, the coaches, management and owners, and I love being a Washington Capital. The fans here have been great to me. I want to win, and I want to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington.”
“We knew when we drafted Alex that we were getting a phenomenal player,” McPhee said. “What we soon saw first-hand was what an outstanding competitor, teammate and person he is. This contract further demonstrates his dedication to our team and the organization’s commitment to building a consistent winner here in Washington.”Way to Represent –
A day after signing his new contract, Ovechkin was named to represent the Capitals at the 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta. Backstrom was named to represent the Caps in the 2008 YoungStars Game, also in Atlanta.Milestone for Michael –
Michael Nylander’s goal against the Flyers on Jan. 13 was the 200th of his NHL career. Nylander’s first NHL goal came as a member of the Hartford Whalers on Nov. 27, 1992 in a 5-4 loss to the Boston Bruins. Nylander victimized Bruins’ netminder Reggie Lemelin that night.Two More Men Down --
Nylander’s 200th came in his final game of the season. Days after his two-point performance against Philadelphia, Nylander underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.
Caps captain Chris Clark also played his final game of the season on that Sunday afternoon against the Flyers. After missing 18 games with a groin injury, Clark came back to play against Philadelphia, only to re-injure the groin late in the first period. He skated just 9:06 in that contest, and then missed the final 38 games of 2007-08. Clark appeared in only 18 of Washington’s 82 games during the season.
Sweeping the Sens –
With a Jan. 15 win over Ottawa, the Capitals authored their first sweep of a season series against the Sens since 1995-96.George Herman Bradley –
Not only was Matt Bradley the only one of 24 shooters to find the back of the net and end the shootout misery on Jan. 17 against Edmonton, he called his shot. He implored Caps bench boss Bruce Boudreau to put him in so he could git ’er done.
“I told him, ‘Let me go and I’ll score,’ and got very lucky and scored,” said Bradley afterwards. And then he launched into a series of rapid fire one-liners that would have made any stand-up comedian proud.
“I looked at him and told him a couple times, ‘I’ll score, I’ll score,’ said Bradley. “I think he said, ‘I know, I know,’ and picked other guys. I don’t think he actually believed what I was saying.”
On whether he was smiling or smirking after he scored:
“I was just happy. I blacked out there for a second. I didn’t know what happened.
“I was hoping I’d get to go before Brent Johnson went.”
On what move he used:
“I don’t have any moves. I lost the puck and tried to grab it again.”
After the game, Bradley entered the room and told his teammates he’d be putting on a clinic for them at practice the next day.This One Goes to Eleven –
With the win over Edmonton, the Caps climbed over both the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington moved into 11th place in the conference, four points behind eighth place Boston. The Capitals ascended to third in the Southeast Division, four points behind Atlanta and three points behind Carolina. continued on next page