Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Now THAT was a hockey game

It has to be said... that was one of the best NHL games I've seen in some time. Great back and forth action, great talent on display, just a fantastic example of what the game of hockey is all about. It was like someone rolled a shooting, passing, and goaltending clinic all together and edited them into a single game. As a fan of hockey, I enjoyed last night's game more than any in recent memory.

Unfortunately, as a Caps fan, I left with that whole glass half empty feeling. Even though the Alex and Alex highlight reel continued to grow courtesy of jaw dropping plays by both wings, the team lost the game. Not that the rest of the team didn't match the intensity of their best players. They did. Any time Big Donnie Brashear tallies for the Caps, you know they're getting good work out of all four lines.

The Capitals on the whole played a fantastic game last night, but left Ottawa with no points. Zero. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Not good for a team that has serious ground to make up in the playoff chase.

The Caps have some serious issues that need to be addressed, and soon. Dainus Zubrus is officially colder than the ice he skates on. Hell, he's colder than the ice Sasha Semin skated on in Siberia. He flubbed yet another easy scoring opportunity (that makes 500,000 by my unofficial count), missing a shot from less than two feet out where all he had to do was lift the puck a foot off the ice. Martin Gerber was even LOOKING THE OTHER WAY AT THE TIME. Just goes to show you... I can't write anything nice about anyone and have it work out.

[late edit - don't believe me? Words from the horses mouth, courtesy of Tarik: "I'm not taking anything away from [Gerber], but at the same time I don't think we shot the puck all the times when we should have," said Zubrus. "Myself included. I had two opportunities. On the five-on-three, I couldn't get over the pad and in the third period I missed on a breakaway. But I just couldn't finish it."]

Also, Kris Beech is a problem. Not has one, IS one. Not sure what else to say. He had a chance on a clear breakaway to get the Caps back into the game and he MISSED THE NET ENTIRELY. What a disappointment he's been. I doubt he'll be in the league next year.

The only other problem I had last night (outside of the score) was with the referees, who consistently go too far in eliminating physical play. Listen, boys, the focus is cracking down on OBSTRUCTION. Hooking, holding, and interference are obstruction related penalties. Roughing is NOT. So please, stop trying to turn the NHL into the Swedish Elite League. Thanks.

Next game is tomorrow against those #@!!$#@! Florida KittyCats. If the Caps bring the same game they played the last two nights, they'll come away with two points. If they bring the same game they played their last two games against the Kitties, there may be mass suicide attempts by Caps fans that tune in. So either way it should be interesting to watch.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Allan Muir may have his Alexes crossed

The question at hand: Is Allan Muir looking over Tarik's shoulder at test time? If so, he maybe needs to get his Alexes straight.

Muir reports that the Caps are growing tired of Semin's inconsistency (I'm thinking maybe in his defensive assignments). Sounds an awful lot like the article critical of Alex Ovechkin's a game run by the Post a few days ago.

So is the organization really sour on Semin, or did Allan Muir just get caught cheating?

Time to take advantage of the situation

Although the Capitals are still banged up on the backline, there are still plenty of good reasons to be hopeful for the full 2 points on the road tonight. First off, Ottawa no longer has Zdeno Chara (not really news, but I bet AO is still happy about it). Second, this is Ottawa's third game in four nights. They don't exactly have the most youthful team up in the, um, other nation's capital, so there's reason to expect some heavy legs from the Sens players tonight. Third, the Caps are 2-1 in the season series against the Sens. On the other hand, the Senators have won 12 of their last 15 games. Gulp.

To me, this game hinges on whether the Caps backline can put together another strong showing like they did in the second game against Carolina. Mike Green also needs to bounce back from his weak performance in that game to manage the breakout and create offense in the Ottawa zone, as the team will once again be without Brian Pothier.

One bright spot on the injury front - it's the Return of the Zedhead! I expect a lot from Zednik in the next few weeks (once he shakes off the rust), and it will be VERY interesting to see if Hanlon is willing to clear room for him on the second line. I would be rather surprised if he didn't see a good number of minutes across from Sasha Semin as the team evaluates both the value of re-signing him and his value on the open market. It'll be interesting to see where Eric Fehr fits into the lineup with Zed back and healthy.

Game time is 7:30 in the REALLY, REALLY COLD NORTH.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Just what the doctor ordered

Ahhh... now that's more like it. After Friday, the Capitals destiny seemed written in stone. The Southeast Division was too strong. Carolina and Atlanta had too much talent, Tampa matched up too well with us with their offensive skills, and the team kept on giving points away to Florida. The Capitals just didn't quite have enough talent to compete.

And then Saturday happened. Like the first beam of dawn after a terrible storm, the Capitals game reappeared. They stormed Carolina from the outset, pressuring in all three zones, forcing turnovers, and absolutely BURYING their scoring opportunities. They scored on the power play, they scored shorthanded, they scored at even strength. They scored and scored and scored some more. And at the end of the day they stood strong, still in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Congrats to Eric "I only score big goals" Fehr for scoring his first NHL goal which, to no surprise, ended up the game winner. If he keeps playing a strong offensive game like he did Saturday, I don't think the folks in Hershey, PA will see him again for a long, long while. Fehr is ready for the big time, and he needs to cut his teeth at the NHL level for him to be ready to assume some serious offensive responsibility, either in the playoffs this year or next season.

The Russian Scoring Spree continued, with Semin netting 2 goals and Ovechkin one. I'm really liking the way these two continue to perform, especially since it seems to have raised the competitiveness in Semin. It seems like he wants to be a part of the Battle for Russian Supremacy, and the Caps can only benefit from a little friendly competition between their two best offensive players.

Lost in all the offensive output was another stellar game from Olie Kolzig, who was a wall when the team needed him most in the second and third periods. It's been said over and over again, but it bears repeating (and repeating again): This team would be absolutely lost without Kolzig. I only hope the team improves enough to get him another deep playoff run before his time playing in the NHL is over. It would be a shame otherwise.

On another note entirely, someone needs to call Dale Hunter and have him come in and work with Sutherby on his faceoff technique. He got positively owned in the circle against Brind'Amour (which isn't surprising) but he also struggles against lesser opposition. And NOBODY in Caps history won more big faceoffs than The Big Game Hunter. Now if someone upstairs can just find his number...

So what did last night show us? That the Capitals are ready to compete. That they CAN take on the best their division (and the league) has to offer. And that it's far too early to know just about anything else.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where is the love people?

So apparently Capital Prospect has no love for the rest of us bloggers. Okay, no biggie. Believe me, we here at the GCF have been hit with much, much worse than that. And hey, you gotta feel for a guy (or gal?) who has been doing this for a while and is apparently getting his toes stepped on by us newbies. Or maybe you don't. Whatever.

What I take issue with is the idea that we (this site in particular, and the blogging community in general) are doing this to get some sort of free ride. Listen, I coughed up my $600 bucks to I could take my girlfriend to see 11 games this year. My brother and father slapped their money down to support the team as well. We are Capitals FANS first and foremost. None of us had any expectation to be invited to the press box, or to the locker room, or to any superswanky Gilbert Arenas style parties.

Here's something that may be hard to understand. We don't WANT to go to the press box. The press area represents the polar opposite of what we love about sports. You're expected to be quiet, objectively report on what you see, and eat a lot of free food (well, okay, maybe I'd dig that one). It's worse than watching the game on TV, where at least you can scream at the screen and throw things.

We go to Caps games to be loud and boisterous, to debate the merits of one player over another, to shout our opinions to the entire arena, whether other fans want to hear 'em or not. We go to be FANS. And blogging, to me, is just an extension of that. It's just taking the same conversations about how much player x sucks or how Eric Fehr should be up with the team or how Sidney Crosby is thirsty all the time and putting them out there for discussion.

We do this because we love hockey, and we love the Caps. If someone has a problem with that, well, screw 'em.

There was no need to turn such a positive thing (so many Caps fans getting INVOLVED with the team) into a negative. So thanks for taking a big dump on all of us, Capital Prospect. We love you too.

Slow day in hockeyland

Since there's not a heck of a lot of hockey news today, I figured I'd break out my 3rd grade art skills and throw together a mockup of the color scheme I'd like the Caps to have:

I know, I know, I was always bad at coloring inside the lines.

I like this color scheme because it keeps the traditional red, white and blue of the franchise, but is a little more bold than the old red/white combo. For a crest, I'd like to either slap the old school logo or something like the following, which I have nowhere near the artistic ability to pull off, so I'm just going to describe. The logo would be a large eagle holding 1940s style shield (red horizontal top with blue and white vertical striping below) with the Capitol dome at top of shield, family crest style.

It would incorporate elements of DC (Capitol Dome) and our status as the nation's capitol (eagle and shield). It also ever so slightly resembles the Russian national team jerseys (as a nod to the Alexes). We all know how the Russian Machine gets when he's got his national pride thing going.

Anyone with actual artistic talent that wants to take a crack at the design, feel free to do so and shoot the image to me in an e-mail.

Also, I think I made myself a little sick looking at that photo of Crosby for so long. Ugh.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Player poll reveals what we all already know

Alex Ovechkin is the most dangerous goal scorer in the league, according to a poll of current NHL players. He also finished 3rd in the "player to start a franchise with" poll.

I wonder, with the calendar as unbalanced as it is, whether East players got to vote for guys in the West and vice-versa. Seeing as they only get one glimpse of players from the opposite conference, would ESPN have been better suited splitting the poll into East and West and having guys only vote in their conference? I would venture to say yes.

So the All-Star game was... well... an All-Star game.

Lots of goals, lots of flubbed pass attempts, a few pretty plays, and even more goals. Alex Ovechkin scored once during the game and apparently scored a ton of merchandise beforehand as well. Well, I'm glad he enjoyed the experience.

And was it just me that took a sick sort of pleasure in seeing Marty Brodeur lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July in the second period? Tell me it wasn't just me. I mean, I know it was an exhibition and all, but still, he got positively SMOKED out there. Good times... if you're not a Devils fan (and why the hell would you be?).

Well, now that the fun and games are over with, it's time for the Caps to get back to work, with a crucial home-and-home series against the 'Canes this weekend. The team needs to win at least one of the games to keep their playoff pulse strong. Otherwise we'll be in near-flatline territory.

First game of the set is tomorrow at 7 in Carolina (North or South? Does it even matter? Is there a discernible difference, other than the license plate?).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's defense got to do with it?

Okay, so Coach Hanlon (and apparently Tarik) want the Russian Machine to work harder in the defensive end of the rink. Fair enough. But lets not get ahead of ourselves here.

Yes, Alex needs to develop into a better two way player. That's fine. But he also harbors the burden of carrying nearly the entirety of the Caps offense. Until Backstrom comes over to work with Semin, it's still going to be the Alex and Alex show, with Ovechkin asked to carry most of that workload.

Lets not try to turn him into Steve Konowalchuk just yet (although turning Sutherby into a Kono type... but I digress). Simply put, the Caps need Ovie to be free to create in the offensive end. If that means he's late backchecking that's an exchange the team needs to be willing to make... THIS year. A bit of a tug on the reins is fine, but any more than that before the rest of the team is ready to step up and take more of the offensive load off him would be a mistake.

Now next year, when we'll have two legitimate scoring lines (Clark, Ovie, Zubrus* to go with Semin, Backstrom, Pettinger/Fehr), more can and should be asked of the Russian Machine. Until then, we need Alex's offense more than his defense. Again, I'm not suggesting that we have him dangle at the red line (yes, I'm looking at you Maxim Afinogenov), but just reminding folks that the offense without OV doing his thing would be, well, sparse.

*assumes we re-sign Zubie. If not, bump Fehr to line 1 with Pettinger at line 2)

Quick heads up

The Washington Post will have a live chat with Alex Ovechkin today at noon so you can, you know, ask him about what he ate for breakfast and stuff.

More later on the whole "Alex needs to play more defense" thing.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One more reason I wish I was still in college

The Caps are running a promo where the first 368 College Students Get Free Admission to the game this weekend AND a free pizza. Pure marketing genius.

College boys and girls, even if you're not lucky enough to land free tickets, you can still land a pizza.

"For only $21 students with a valid college ID will be able to purchase a ticket to any Capitals home game this season and will receive a coupon for a free large Papa John’s pizza."

All that's missing now is the beer.

Young Stars game tonight

Tonight, Mike Green will help kick off the All-Star festivities by playing one game with the Pittsburgh Flightless Devil.... er, Eastern Conference young stars squad. I would complain about how Pittsburgh has the most players on the squad, but hey, that's what happens when you draft in the top five 700 years in a row. Not that I'm not happy for Greener (I am) or that I feel he shouldn't be recognized as one of the finest young talents in the league (I do), it's just that I was really hoping he would rest his injured foot during the break and be 100% healthy when the Caps make their run at the playoffs after the break is over.

Folks will argue that Green won't be pushing that hard for an all star event, and that the chance of injury is minimal. Very true. But having Greenie play at all on an injured foot certainly won't speed his recovery.

I'd feel a little less strongly about this if I didn't think we'd be seeing a lot more of Green in All-Star festivities in the future. If he was just having an out of this world season for an average defenseman I'd be all for him going. But Mike Green is going to be a perennial All-Star in the NHL. He has all the tools (physical and mental) to be the next Scott Neidermayer. If the Caps can get a hulking defenseman to play with him and release him for more offensive forays (like Scott Stevens did for Neidermayer), he'll get All-Star consideration every single year.

I know any recognition for a developing young star should be appreciated, but given Green's talent and how much the team needs him to be healthy after the break, I wish he'd have skipped this one.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Caps sleep through alarms, miss game against Florida

The ice was littered with garbage today. The fans threw some on it at the end of the game, too.

The Capitals showed absolutely ZERO interest in playing a hockey game against Florida. The Panthers took advantage, and won the game easily, 4-1. The score makes the game seem much closer than it actually was. The Caps were thoroughly outworked, and nobody on the team seemed to care. Olie Kolzig was spectacular, but could not overcome the criminally neglectful play of his teammates. From goal line to goal line, the Caps absolutely stunk the joint up. Any fan that paid money for a ticket to the game should be given a full refund. They paid to see a hockey game. There wasn't one played, at least not by the home side.

It's hard to single out any one player or line that gave the game away, because the ENTIRE TEAM was absolutely atrocious.

If I were Hanlon, I'd do whatever it took to make sure the Caps skated the first three days of the All-Star break. Notice I said skated, NOT practiced. An effort like that deserves nothing short of three straight days of power skating. No pucks, no fun, just a thorough breaking down of the entire roster. If the Caps don't have ice slotted at Ballston, he needs to either get Leonsis to pay for the ice or spring for it himself. But a turd like the Caps dropped on the fans tonight demands a response from the coaching staff.

I haven't seen a stinkbomb like that in years. And against one of the worst teams in the league. After an absolute pasting from that team not even a month ago.

Today was a disgrace to the players, the organization, and to the fans.

Reeeeeeeallly quick preview

I'm running late for the game today, so this will be really, really brief. The Caps found their game at Carolina, taking two points from a division foe. They have a great opportunity tonight to take another two from the Florida Pussycats. Alexander Semin is absolutely on fire, and should either score or set-up a Boyd Gordon tally. You heard it here first, folks. I'm calling a shot for Gordo. Don't make me look like an idiot, er, more than I already do.

Caps roll, 5-3.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to the V now!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Game recap by the Deuce

Grumpy Caps Fan 2 takes over last nights game recap. I was on the injured list (day-to-day, girlfriend duties).

Semin would not be stopped last night. In fact, the one time Grahame made a glove save on him, it just pissed him off and on the next breakaway he fired another wrister IN THE SAME CORNER for a sweet goal (Even though jackass Grahame claims Semin only scored because he "slipped."

To quote Dennis Green, Boyd Gordon "[was] who we thought he [was]…HE [WAS] WHO WE THOUGHT HE [WAS]…OKAY?!" In other words, he worked his butt of, played great, had three or four TERRIFIC scoring opportunities . . . and . . . finished the night with . . . one second assist on Chris Clark's empty net goal. How do you spell "Backstrom?" (GC1 edit: I think you just did).

I think Olie decided before the game "There's no F-ing way we're losing this one tonight." He was unreal. Once again, without him, we lose that game 7-3.

Chris Clark, ex-Golden Knight, officially has a golden horeshoe up his ass right now. Two goals, neither of which would have been goals without the gracious assistance of Carolina players.

Brian Sutherby couldn't win a faceoff if his life depended on it. (Edit: But he can take a chin check from anyone, anytime)

Schultz didn't look TOO out of place in the limited action he saw out there. Except one time, when the Carolina forward put a move on him and he fell down again trying to pivot. He should be okay in a year or two. Once he adds 50 pounds.

I would just close by saying that Alexander Semin is now officially Russian Machine, version 2.0 (except, unlike the original, he breaks down occasionally). Just imagine what he would do with a real center who could actually set him up for some easy goals! As is, they are ALL unbelievable individual efforts (even though you gotta give kudos to the Donald for his sweet (blind?) pass to spring Semin on the breakaway for his second goal. (Edit: That's 2 fantastic passes by Big Donnie in this road swing. You think he's stepping up in response to the additional ice time?)


My only addition to the recap is that it's nice to see the Caps finally score one on the power play (and not waste any time doing it).

I'm not so sure I like Sasha Semin getting the same nickname as Ovechkin, so we'll be taking submissions for a new one for him. Post your ideas in the comments section or send to wrldeatr at aol dot com. Best submission wins, well, credit and a post in this blog.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

All Star Jersey Mayhem

Japer's Rink has a post up on the new Reebok designed All-Star jerseys (along with a nice rendition of what the new Caps jersey would look like next year, if only we didn't screw it up).

I'm going to go a different route with this. Take a look at the price for one of these things: $110, $185, $350, $425. This HAD BETTER be one time, All-Star jersey only pricing. If it's not, it's another idiotic move by a league that seems intent on alienating every fan that loves the game and making it inaccessible to those that want to get into it for the first time.

Think about it... a replica NBA jersey sells for $45-60. A replica NFL jersey sells for $75-100. Replica MLB jerseys sell for around $75. MLS sells theirs for $65-80.

You're telling me the NHL, which trails all these leagues in popularity in the US, is going to charge more than all these? And, in the case of a jersey with an actual name and number, at least $85 more?

Lets put this into perspective: a father with 1 kid is given tickets to a game. He loves it. The kid loves it. The kid wants a jersey of his favorite player (Alex Ovechkin, of course). So dad goes to take a look at the replicas and BAM! a $185 price tag stares him right in the face. If you're that dad, (not a lifelong NHL fan) what do you do?

And if the league wants to move hockey away from the perception that it's a sport for the elite only, this is exactly how NOT to do it.

Trouble here

This from Grumpy Caps Fan #2, fresh off his return from vacation, if you can call 8 hour flights and 2 weeks with sick (physically, not mentally) in-laws vacation.

"No Erskine. No Green. No Muir (hahahahahahaha). Eminger (YIKES). Schultz (let's hope he doesn't fall down when Mats Sundin just looks at him this game. I mean Staal). Boyd FRIKKIN' Gordon as the SECOND LINE CENTER (stats: 2 goals, 3 assists in last 500 career games). Kris Beech centering Brashear and somebody else on the 4th line. We are SKEE-ROOD..."

I guess you can tell that a positive attitude runs in the family.

But wait, in another email from the Deuce:

"Mention that I give the Caps about a 6.3% chance of winning tonight. So they'll probably win."

So there. If the Caps do pull the upset over Carolina, we can thank him for that. Carolina has won 4 of their last 5, with the lone loss coming in a shootout against Atlanta. The Caps meanwhile have lost 3 in a row, and 6 in a row on the road. They're missing Greenie, probably their most mobile defenseman, along with Erskine, their most physical. Their power play put up a goose egg in five chances last game. And their goaltending as of late has been comparatively underwhelming (which had to happen sooner or later, as both Olie and BJ had been playing out of their mind for long stretches).

Unless they can win this game 10-9, the Caps are in a boatload of trouble tonight. My prediction: Canes roll, 6-3. And I throw something at the TV.

And yes, if you're wondering, I do believe in the Bill Simmons' Memorial Reverse-Jinx.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The long road home continues

The Caps yet again couldn't get it done, and lost on the road to the Sens. Quite a few areas of concern in the game, so lets start from the top.

First, the Caps blew a chance to grab an early lead when Ben Clymer shanked an easy tip in just three minutes into the game. Dainus Zubrus also blew an easy tip in chance later in the game that would have tightened the game to 4-3. The inability of any forwards other than the Alexes and Captain Clark to capitalize on even the best scoring chances is absolutely killing the team right now.

Maybe our guys are gripping the sticks too tightly, knowing that this is probably more than just a chance to make the playoffs. It's also a chance for them to secure their spots on the roster. With a glut of talent up front in Hershey and Backstrom coming over from Sweden, not withstanding any offseason free agent signings, spots will be much harder to come by next year. Are our boys feeling the squeeze? It appears so.

Our already depleted defensive corps took another shot (to the ankle, no less!) when Mike Green took a rocket slapper flush to the ankle. Here's to hoping it's no more than a bad bruise.

The Caps are clearly missing the backline presence of John Erskine right now. Teams simply do not show any respect for the Capitals physical play on in the defensive end. Opposing forwards make moves directly at the defense, which would not happen if they got their jaw rattled every once in a while.

The Caps road losing streak is now at 6, and won't improve unless they can find a way to jump-start what has been an absolutely atrocious power play unit. 0 for 5 with the man advantage simply won't get it done in the NHL these days.

Brad Johnson also had a less than stellar game in net. At least two of the goals scored were less than spectacular, with Johnson moving too far out of position laterally on one and getting beaten by a slow wrister on another. This is not to say that Johnson is not a good backup, or that I object to his recent contract extension. Neither is the case. It's the simple fact that, as a backup, he is going to have the occasional game where he flubs a couple shots. It's the reason he's not a starter right now. I happen to think he does an admirable job in his role, but that role is to spell Kolzig when necessary and try to steal a game now and again, not to consistently perform at Kolzig's level. And last night he had an off night. I still think his contract extension was a good idea, and that he's ideal an ideal fit as a long term second goaltender as the team brings along Semen Varlamov or whoever ends up as Kolzig's replacement.

Next game is tomorrow at Carolina in a game the team absolutely needs to win in order to stay competitive in the Southeast division.

Late Update: X-rays negative on Green, but he's out indefinitely. Not good. Not at all.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This just might work...

News from Tarik that the Caps will play Big Donnie Brashear on the second line tonight against Ottawa, alongside Semin and Beech. It's an interesting move, and if it doesn't click immediately will probably be short lived, but I think it's a great shakeup. Brashear doesn't have great speed, but most power forwards don't. He is an underrated passer, and an absolute terror forechecking in the offensive end. And as for his physical play, well, you already know all about that. He will certainly cause some offensive zone turnovers (or at minimum some VERY jittery defensemen), which should see Semin and Don't Call Me Dead Meat Beech get some more bang-bang play opportunities.

This reminds me of another Caps big man getting an opportunity for more minutes when he was traded here from Colorado. His name: Chris Simon. And while Simon had more in the way of footspeed and offensive skill, he was nowhere near the physical presence that Big Donnie is. Simon had his most productive years playing the power forward role in DC (until a shoulder injury severely downgraded his physical play and hence his overall effectiveness).

So here's to hoping that Big Donnie does well in his role, and gets lots more ice time to go with it. At this stage in his career, there's no way you can say he hasn't earned it.

Brashear's beatdown of the Ottawa Fat Cat Legislators starts at 7:30 tonight.

Monday, January 15, 2007

After some time to reflect (and lick the wounds)

I've written several times before on how the Capitals are a young, inexperienced team and that fans need to adjust their expectations accordingly. As I said in my January 1st post,

"What lies ahead for the Capitals this year seems apparent. They will work their butts off to win a lot of games they wouldn't take on talent alone. They will lose some heartbreaking games they should win."

At the same time, what happened against Florida was nothing short of a disgrace. I'm willing to give the team the benefit of the doubt, but getting absolutely crushed by a team that's near last in the league is completely and totally unacceptable. Not showing up for a game is completely and totally unacceptable. If I were Coach Hanlon, there would be no pucks in practice for the next few days. Just lots and lots of hard skating, a la Herb Brooks after Team USA's pre-Olympic tie with Norway.

There are two trends the Caps absolutely need to buck if they want to make a serious run at the playoffs. The first is their current inability to bring home points on the road. 0-5 on the last road trip (I know it was a murderous schedule, but is an OT loss too much to ask for?). 0-2 to start this one, with both losses coming against Southeast Division opponents that were below us in the standings. If they continue to throw points away like this, they'll be able to make tee time reservations well before the end of the season.

Maybe Hanlon needs to pack some Teddy Bears for these guys to make them feel like they're at home. On second thought, probably not. They've been playing soft enough on the road as it is.

The second issue that needs to be addressed is their constantly being outshot by other teams. In the past few games they've been outshot by a large margin by two of the worst teams in the league (Florida and Philly). They need to pressure forwards in their own zone more, and make more plays at goal in their opponents territory. Now I know Caps teams have forever been known for their cycling down low in the attacking zone, but at some point they need to get pucks at the net. Even weak shots on goal can yield rebounds, deflections, and other scoring chances.

Next game is Tuesday against the Ottawa Roman lookalikes. At least we know the boys won't be spending too much of their time at the beach before that one.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


That hurt. Bad.

Friday, January 12, 2007

His middle name is Gretzky

Man, I think I'm developing a serious man crush on Donald Brashear. When was the last time you saw an enforcer thread a two line pass through 3 opposing players and right on the stick of a teammate for a breakaway?

If you said anything other than never, you're a liar.

Also, Sasha Semin has really good balance. You don't often see a guy fake a shot, stickhandle, and snipe a goal all on one leg.

Also, I wish I'd had the guts to predict Clymer's goal yesterday. I had a feeling he'd pot one against his old team, but I wussed out on calling the shot.

Unfortunately, you don't get points in the standings for style. Caps fall to Tampa, 5-4. Next game is tomorrow night in Miami against the KittyCats.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

This just in... E.J. Hradek is an idiot

Yet again, another ESPN hockey "reporter" has written a glowing piece about how Secondary Sid is "the very best player in the NHL." To which I reply, "bull$#!#."

The only reasons I can see that these "experts" continuously stroke the Secondary One in print are 1) there is only ever 1 TV on that shows hockey in all of Bristol, and they only get good reception from the Pittsburgh feed and 2) nothing beats the Pittsburgh sob story (an up and coming team that may be forced to relocate because they have a crappy arena).

Let's face it folks, Alexander Ovechkin has more charisma in his right pinkie than Crosby has in his whole body. He also has more scoring ability than Crosby will ever dream of. Disagree? Compare The Goal to The Imitation. One is a goal for all-time, something I'll be telling my brother's kids I saw years from now. The other? Someone laying out to make a deflection. And yet every hack with a keyboard in Bristol seems to think that they belong in the same conversation. They don't, and time will show that they won't.

You want to talk about being a complete player? How about putting a shoulder into someone. I've never, EVER seen Sid put a solid lick on any player, much less a physically imposing one. Alexander Ovechkin plays a monster physical game against every team he plays. He doesn't just beat up on the small guys, the grind guys, the lesser players of the NHL. Don't believe me? Ask Forsberg how his head feels. Or search youtube for Crosby and hits. Find anything? Thought not. Now do the same for Ovechkin. I'll see you in half an hour when you're done with the first few pages of highlights.

But yeah, E.J., you're right. Crosby is a complete player. Completely soft. The guy has more diving minors than hits.

Oh, there's also that little thing called the Calder trophy, given to the best rookie in the NHL. Last year, Ovechkin "edged" Crosby in the voting, winning by a margin of only 119 first place votes (there were 129 cast). That after "experts" like Hradek and Suck Burnside predicted one of the closest votes of all time.

Now I'm not saying Crosby is not a good player. He most certainly is. In time he may become one of the all-time greats. What I am saying is this: Putting the Secondary One on a pedestal above the Russian Machine (see, he's even got better nicknames) is more than just lazy journalism. It's downright offensive, and it makes a mockery of what a "complete" player, and hockey in general, should be all about. And Caps fans should be LIVID about it. I know I am.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Caps programming

Tonight the Caps take on the Light Breeze at the St. Pete Times Forum in, well, wherever the heck the St. Pete Times forum is. The Caps roll in having won their last 3 games, and need a strong showing against the Breeze in order to maintain their momentum. Meanwhile, Tampa has won their last two against the Flightless Devilbirds, and are playing strong all around hockey.

To win this game, the Caps are going to need to put one in on Marc Denis early. They haven't had much success against him, and overcoming that mental block will probably be the deciding factor. The Caps also need to come out MUCH stronger in the defensive end than they played against Philly. It's one thing to surrender a ton of pressure to the league's leaders in suckitude. It's entirely different to do so against a team with as much firepower as Tampa. Mike Green is going to have to step up his game tonight, because he's the only one that has the wheels to keep up with Martin "Don't call me Mini-me" St. Louis. If Green makes a conscious effort to play strong in the Caps end, even at the detriment of his offensive game, I think the Caps take this one. If not, our chances aren't nearly as good.

Also, lets see if the Caps have a solid gameplan for dealing with the odd 3 wide offensive alignment Vinnie Lecavalier used so effectively last game. Lets hope they do, because they're toast if they don't.

Game time is 7:30. Set your TiVos accordingly, 'cause this is going to be a good one.

Bring on Mr. Posh

Non-soccer fans should probably skip this post.

Just a short note for all the soccer fans out there that Becks has signed with the Galaxy. Of course he did. I'm getting real tired of MLS stacking the deck for LA (like they do almost every year) in order to increase the fan base out there. Hey Galaxy fans (all 3 of you) , can't wait to see you all as you walk out of RFK, tail between your legs once again this year.

And here's a free one for the Barra and the Eagles to start working on: "Chris-tian's Be-tter!"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Takin' Care of Business

Just like Elvis, the Caps took care of business last night against the Philadelphia Fallers, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and going on to win 6-2. Ben Clymer scored on a squeaker that eluded Bob Esche only 15 seconds in, and Alex Ovechkin was, well, Alex Ovechkin, scoring an sniper's goal from a bad angle in early in the first and again in the second to begin the route of Philly. Olie Kolzig provided excellent play early on while the Caps defense was on its heels, and continued his steady play throughout the game.

Big Donnie Brashear netted his first goal as a Capital off what can only be described as a moonshot, but had to delay his celebration for about 5 minutes while the goal was under review. Man, enforcers just can't catch a break.

As for the tone of the game, I can only describe it as Us Vs. The Men Wearing Orange and Black, and I don't just mean Philly. The refs once again made a mockery of the game of hockey, especially on Clymer's "interference" call in the second. The NHL needs to recognize that this is hockey, not figure skating, and that last I checked, a hip check is still legal. There was nothing even remotely illegal about the play. Listen, if the fans wanted to watch no-contact hockey, they'd move to Sweden.

The only good thing about the string of bogus calls was the energy they supplied the crowd. It's good to see the fans finally realizing that they CAN make noise, get rowdy, and support their team at the top of their lungs, especially when said team is getting the shaft. The fans really came together to give it to the refs and, more importantly, to let the penalty killers know their efforts were appreciated. So pat yourselves on the back, Caps fans. Good job. Lets try to keep up that intensity for the rest of the season.

There is, however, one small issue I have to take up. Lets quit all this sweep nonsense. The term sweep should ONLY apply to the playoffs. This wasn't the playoffs. I mean, seriously. These days, if you win ONE GAME against a Western Conference team, you've technically swept the season series. So lets retire the word until we get into some 7 gamers.

Also, Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles could be heard through the entire arena this time. Gran trabajo, muchachos!

Oh, and Zubrus is starting to look lazy out there again. Don't make me eat my words, Zubie-doobie-doo.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Matt Bradley makes his return to the lineup tonight, part 700

Okay, I'm serious this time. Tarik has reported that Bradley will make his return to the ice tonight against Philly. I can finally repost my nearly month old comment on him. So, drumroll please.....

"The checking line should get a boost from the return of Matt Bradley, who had been sidelined with a hand injury. I happen to think Bradley is one of the most underrated forwards on the team. Although not particularly big or fast, he plays great positional hockey and his all around game is strong."

Just to add a personal note, when I was at a game a couple weeks into last season I told my brother that if I had to pick a jersey to buy from that particular Caps team, I'd go with Bradley . I probably still will. It's not that I wouldnt' wear an Ovie or Clark or Semin jersey. It's just that I like to collect jerseys of players that reflect the way I think I play (though at a much, much, much, much, MUCH higher level than I). Well, that and my brother has an Ovie jersey and my father has a signed Captain Clark Clarkson University jersey (which Clarkie was kind enough to sign for my brother and I after a practice before we gave it to pops for his birthday).

So welcome back Matt.

The return of Bradley will probably see Jakub Klepis scratched from the lineup. Klepis has very good offensive potential and should one day make a fine second line offensive forward, but he's young and still has a tendency to 1) play too soft and 2) get absolutely CREAMED once a game (much like Gonchar used to). Until he learns to read how defensemen are playing him in the neutral zone, that's going to continue to be a problem.

I'll be spending part of tonight's game with folks who donated blood to the Red Cross a couple weeks back, and a part with Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles. Should be a party and a half. Don't miss it.

Late Edit: Need another reason to like Matt Bradley? Read this.

Monday, January 8, 2007

They're coming....

The DC United fans of la Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles will be in the house tomorrow night in section 414. As a supporter of both the Caps and DCU, I'll be taking a walk over to chant with the boys (and girls). Both groups are VERY vocal and definitely add to the experience, but lets just say you wouldn't want to put them in the family section. Which is fine by me.

The Caps need more passionate, noisemaking fans, and I wouldn't mind seeing the team designate a section to just that type of fan in the future. That would eliminate the complaints that "they won't sit down" and "I don't want my kids near that much drinking." So Caps suits, if you're listening, designate a permanent section in the cheap seats for loud-chanting, beer-drinking, all-energy-all-the-time fans. The games will be more fun for it. And remember, it's hockey, not ballet. A profane chant every once in a while is to be expected. Hey, the Capital Center used to ring with a word that rhyme with cashbowl all the time. And those of us that grew up there turned out OK. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Also, tickets for tomorrow's game are half price in certain sections. Go get 'em.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Just my luck

I had to work this weekend and had a get together afterwards, and I forgot to set my TiVo to record the game. Of course it ends up being the most exciting Caps home game since the Pittsburgh game, only with a much better ending. And I missed it. I hate myself right now.

As I predicted, both Kovalchuk and Ovechkin found the net, but Sasha Semin steals the title of best Russian of the night with two goals, including the game winning goal with 17 seconds left in overtime. The Caps secure another much needed two points with the win.

Next game is Tuesday at the V against Philly.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Battle for Russian Supremacy, part II

Tonight at the V, Ilya and Alex go one on one (5 on 5, actually, but you get the idea). I wrote about this earlier, but it bears reinforcing. I fully expect Alex to have a monster game, and break out of his mini-slump. Hopefully Kovalchuk will bring his A game, which should really set AO off.

I also expect a Brashear beatdown, but then again, there really isn't a night these days that I don't.

Caps pull out a squeaker, 4-3. I'd be a lot more confident about this pick if Erskine were back in the lineup. I think he's much more important to this team than anyone realizes. The Caps NEED toughness on the backline to keep teams from pressing at them all night long. A good solid rib rattling check keeps forwards thinking twice about how they attack the net. And Erskine brings that. Not in a Mark Tinordi way, but enough to make folks account for him.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Caps awaken from long winter's nap

The Capitals returned to form last night, beating the Habs 5-1. The Caps got on the board early with two first period goals from Dainus Zubrus in traffic (1, 2). The Caps put the game away on a 4 on 4 midway through the second, with recent call-up Lawrence Nycholat scoring a pretty goal in tight, and Sasha Semin banging home the rebound on a Boyd Gordon shot seconds later to put the game out of reach. Matt Pettinger took a solid hit in order to make a nice outlet pass that sprung Semin for a breakaway goal midway through the third. Olie was his usual spectacular self in preserving the lead, and the Caps skated away with 2 very valuable points.

Seeing as the Caps have had tremendous difficulty scoring with the man advantage and have had better numbers 4 on 4 lately, maybe we should send Dainus Zubrus out to take a holding penalty at the start of every Caps power play to even things up.

Then again, maybe not.

Two random notes, not necessarily from tonight's game.

1) If I were an NHL coach, I would make every player on the penalty kill use a wooden stick. I've seen WAY too many times this year where penalty killers have broken their composite sticks trying to clear the puck or play someone else's stick, leaving them basically impotent in their ability to protect on the penalty kill.

2) Why don't teams just shift to 5-on-3 protection when this happens and just have the penalty killer skate to the bench and grab his stick? Penalty killers prep for 5 on 3 situations, and should be suitably prepared to defend their goal. But staying in 5 on 4 protection with a player with no stick provides a better scoring opportunity for the offense, since the penalty killer with no stick cannot effectively play his role in the protection scheme.

3) If you didn't catch Dallas-Edmonton or San Jose-Detroit last night, go to to check the highlights. RIGHT. NOW. We'll be here when you get back, I promise. And if you're a Boston fan, definitely DO NOT check out these highlights. Ouch.

Next game is Fight Night: Round 3 at the V this Saturday against Atlanta. Hand wraps and tape are optional.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A great spot on Eric Fehr on

if you haven't read it yet, check it here. My brother has always been high on Fehr, and it seems like he's realizing his scoring potential in the minors and developing into a better all around player (from a -12 last year to a + 16 this year). Hopefully we'll see him get some more time with the big club later this year. Although the Caps do have depth at wing, it's mostly on the left side, which should enable Fehr to crack the lineup in the near future.

As is normal for younger guys, he's also added a lot of bulk as his body matures into its adult form. At 6'4" and 216 lbs, he needs a bit more bulk but should be able to contend at the NHL level, unlike the 189 lbs he carried last year that would have gotten him bruised, battered, and busted up in a hurry in the big leagues.

I'm not sure I'm as high on prospect Chris Bourque. He's a shifty skater, but not particularly fast, and certainly not that big at 5'8". Very few players of Theo Fleury's stature get consistent time in the NHL, and I don't see Bourque's skills maturing to the point where he'd be able to overcome his lack of size. But I'd love to see him prove me wrong.

Bourque also has another factor working against his cracking the Caps lineup: he plays on the left side. Just like Ovechkin and Semin. That leaves him a 3rd or 4th line spot, and I doubt he's a prime candidate for a checking line.

On another note, the Caps are sponsoring a Blood Drive at the V tomorrow. The Caps are offering 2 tickets to an upcoming game to all who donate. Having given to the Red Cross many times before, I can tell you that the process is fairly painless, and probably the safest way to save 3 lives that exists. So if you are able, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE to schedule an appointment.

Monday, January 1, 2007

I hate reruns

The Capitals harshest stretch of the season is almost over. And not a moment too soon.

I said before that I was hoping the Caps could take 2 wins during this five game stretch. I even go all optimistic and called for 3. I never thought that this team would take home exactly zero points from those 5 games.

One thing this set of games should do is calm down all those fans that are calling for trades at the deadline to improve the team for a playoff run this year. It was all too apparent that the Caps lack the depth they need to compete in a seven game series. They simply don't have the wealth of talent. Yes, I know that the team was shredded by injuries and illness, but every team gets a bite taken out of it by the injury bug from time to time. More veteran and deeper teams still find ways way to secure points, whether in wins or OT losses. The Capitals simply couldn't dig as deep as they needed to. This is not to say that they lacked effort (they didn't). They just aren't a team that can manage lost man-games to injury, especially in such a horrid stretch of games.

What lies ahead for the Capitals this year seems apparent. They will work their butts off to win a lot of games they wouldn't take on talent alone. They will lose some heartbreaking games they should win (a la their game with the Flightless Devilbirds). And they will finish somewhere between 7th and 10th in the Eastern Conference. They may make the playoffs, they may not. But the team is not yet ready for a serious run. Trading away club assets to assure a playoff birth this season should not be a priority. Securing a free agent or two in the offseason should be.

The one issue I'm most concerned with at this point is the Capitals poor play with the man advantage. They yet again failed to score on a lengthy 5 on 3. Perhaps they need to move more bulk to the front of the net and just let the puck fly looking for a goal off the screen, redirect or rebound. Sometimes having too many purely talented players on the ice at once leads to over complicating the issue.

The Caps next game is this Thursday at the V against the Habs. Hopefully the time off will allow the team to heal (from injury and the plague).