Monday, April 30, 2007

Caps at the World Championships

Caps players at the World Championships:

Nicklas Backstrom - 2 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists, +3
Team USA Captain Chris Clark - 2 Games, 2 Goals, 1 Assist, +1
Alexander Ovechkin - 2 Games, 1 Goal, 2 Assists, +1
Brian Pothier - 2 Games, 0 Goals, 1 Assist, Even
Milan Jurcina - 1 Game, No points, +1

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Second round predictions

Ok, here we go. The Deuce's picks are below mine.

Sabres (1) take the 2nd Battle of New York in 5 over the Rangers (6). The over/under in Vegas on number of games before Jagr cries like a little girl is set at 3. Note, I'm not talking about whining. I mean actual wetworks, sobs and all.

Ottawa (4) makes sure there is no NY Metro final in the East, beating NJ (2) in 6 games. If there is a god.

San Jose (5) muscles over a soft Detroit (1) squad in 6. San Jose has the talent to match Detroit, and they are about 1,000,000,000 times as physical. Also, on a personal note, Detroit sucks.

Anaheim (2) over exhausted Vancouver (3) in 6. Luongo is going to win one game on his own in this series, and I think Anaheim drops game 1 after their long layoff. Other than that, don't expect too much from the Canucks.


Buffalo vs. NYR - Jagr will disappear when he's most needed; the Sabres will completely ignore Avery's stupid animal tricks; and Buffalo's team talent will overcome that of the Czech National Team's. This series won't be nearly as close as people are making it out to be. Sabres in 5.

New Jersey vs. Ottawa - If there is any justice in this world, Ottawa's exciting, up-tempo, pretty passing game will smoke New Jersey's boring, stifling, boring, trapping, boring, mind-numbing, boring, single-handedly killed hockey ratings this decade, boring boring "transitional" game. I have to believe there is hope in this world. Ottawa in 6, thus officially eliminating the last F-ing trapping team in the playoffs and forcing GMs and coaches (including Hanlon) to re-think the trap as a winning strategy. Please.

Detroit vs. San Jose - Matchup of perennial playoff underperformers. Loads of talent on both sides, dearth of players who know how to step it up in the playoffs. I'd like to go with Detroit simply because everyone is picking the Sharks here, but I can't, for several reasons:

1) Detroit is one of the teams whose fans invade our arena every year.

2) Detroit got loads of points this year beating up on St. Louis, Chicago, and Columbus. Our beer-league team could've got 100 points playing those jokers (See also, Nashville Predators). Meanwhile, the Sharks had to play Anaheim and Dallas 16 times this year.

3) When I was a young kid living in Michigan, a buddy took me to a Red Wings-Caps game at the Joe. We were having a good time at the game, and, amazingly, the Caps scored first (Kelly Miller of all people, who woulda thunk it). I cheered for my team, not excessively, not like they do in our house, then went back to watching the game and talking. Well, needless to say, the Wings scored to tie the game, and an eighty year old man sitting in front of me turned around, gave me the double-bird, and screamed "F--- you you washington Pr_ck!" High class. So Wings fans can all burn in hell for all eternity. A--holes. Sharks in 6.

Anaheim-Vancouver - Vancouver is not a good team. And they're worn out. Anaheim is an excellent team. And they're well rested. Nuff said. Quackers in 4.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You already know this

But it bears repeating: Alexs Ovechkin is really, really good. In fact, as we've said here time and time again, he's the best Russian player in the NHL. Apparently the rest of the Russian players agree (for the second year in a row).

Despite his efforts, Kovalchuk did not finish in the top 3. Personally, I'm shocked Malkin came in 2nd. I figured Kovalchuk and Datsyuk would finish above him.

Monday, April 23, 2007

June 22

For those not already aware, the Caps return to the red, white, and blue will come on June 22. Details here.

It's about time. Lets hope we have a new player or two to help model the new threads.

Two down, two to go

Since the Wild and Flames have been eliminated from playoff contention, we're down to only three teams that play the dreaded (and dreadfully dull) neutral zone trap. After tonight's game between Vancouver and Dallas, we'll be down to two.

The Devils are the only team in the Eastern Conference remaining that play the system (not surprising, since their team motto is "Boring fans to death since 1982." It will be interesting to see if the Devils can repeat their first round success, considering they'll be facing opposition that doesn't play right into their hands as the Lightning did.

Many folks might not agree with that statement, and point out that Tampa has a plethora of offensive talent in the Big 3 of Richards, St. Louis, and Lecavalier. The problem with Tampa is that's pretty much all they had. Their goaltending was once again average, and they didn't get the points they needed from the rest of the roster. The Devils were able to match up their vaunted checking line against the Big 3, and the rest of Tampa's roster was unable to pick up the slack. To beat New Jersey, a team needs offensive contributions from multiple lines, and Tampa just didn't have the depth necessary to take out Brodeur and company.

Unfortunately for the Devils (but fortunately for fans of entertaining hockey), the remaining teams in the East have more than enough offensive depth to break New Jersey's system. Whether they can break down Brodeur remains to be seen.

Friday, April 20, 2007

In case you're wondering why the site looks like it does

The Virginia Tech Alumni Association has invited the country to take part in their Orange and Maroon Effect day on Friday, April 20. They ask that everyone wear the Virginia Tech school colors on Friday to show support for the students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and friends.

Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the students, teachers, faculty, parents and every person affected by such a tragic, senseless act of violence.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ovechkin's reaction to Semin's removal

Vogs does a solid follow up on the Semin situation, which details Ovechkin's reaction to Semin's removal from the team. Check it out here.

As would be expected, the Russian Machine walks the delicate line of expressing his sadness that his friend was cut, but also understanding as to why the move was made.

It's also very interesting that Semin had to hear the news that he was cut secondhand from Ovechkin and not directly from a team official. That smacks of unprofessionalism. Then again, Semin probably called Ovechkin before any team officials when he arrived in Moscow.

To me, the organizers for Team Russia should have done a much better job handling the situation. If they were going to cut Semin, they should have let him know before he caught a flight to Moscow. And they definitely should have alerted him to the situation before he heard it from someone else. It's very clear that team officials were making a statement with their actions, but in the way they did it they made another, less flattering one about themselves.

Just a bad situation all around.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's none and done for Semin at the Worlds

Per Mike Vogel, Alexander Semin has been dismissed from the Russian National team. Semin was cut because the flight he had scheduled into Moscow would not arrive until after the team's deadline for players to report to training camp. Semin was unable to switch his flight reservations in time to comply with coach Sergei Nemchinov's timeline, and thus will not play in the tournament.

Although at first glance this seems terribly unfair, the Russian team has had issues in recent years with players who seemed either indifferent or uninterested in playing for their country. Russian hockey officials have repeatedly stated that they only want players who want to represent their country.

While Semin seems to have the desire to play for the team, Nemchinov believed he had to stick to his guns and set an example by suspending Semin, even though he admitted the team would miss Semin's offensive ability.

While Nemchinov's actions may have been for the long term good of the Russian hockey program, there is no doubt that Semin's suspension from the team does nothing but hurt their chances at the World Championships. It's a shame that things had to unfold this way, especially since Semin seemed to be looking forward to playing in the tournament.

One can only wonder what effect cutting Semin will have on the morale of Caps teammate Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the Russian team.

A remembrance

On the passing of Gaetan Duchesne, Original 6 has this to say:

"Gaetan was always one of my favorites. Hard working, a real team player and a nice person. Mom and I ran into him when he was in his first year at a supermarket once. He said that he played for the Capitals and I thought that he meant the Little Capitals. He didn’t."

Gaetan was 44 years old.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Handzus anyone?


"Once optimistic that he was going to be able to re-sign center Michal Handzus, now even Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon isn't so sure. Handzus would become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and earlier this week Tallon met with the veteran's agent. It's believed Handzus wants close to $4 million a season after making $2.1 million in 2006-07 while playing in only eight games because of a knee injury."

While Handzus is coming off an injury plagued season, he is a solid 2nd line center who plays great defense (which would free up the Russian Machine for more offensive forays), and would be a definite upgrade at the position. If the Caps are unable to secure the services of a 1A center, Handzus looks like a reasonably priced (in this year's market, at least) second tier option.

The big question mark for Handzus, who isn't exactly the fastest guy in the NHL, is whether his surgically repaired knee will slow him down even further.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wild Wild West

Anybody else drop-dead tired at work today? I went three overtimes deep in the Vancouver/Dallas game (which ended in the 4th overtime, right about the time most regular folk were getting up for work on the East Coast) , and I'm DYING today. Suffice it to say, with two games going into multiple overtimes(Sharks/Preds being the other), the Western Conference is doing it's best to kill all *productivity for* hockey fans on the East Coast.

For a game where goals were supposed to be at premium, Vancouver and Dallas put on an offensive showcase last night (at least until overtime hit and both teams absolutely locked it down). Both Marty Turko and All-Universe goaltender Roberto Luongo looked eminently beatable through three periods, with both allowing goals that were more AHL quality than NHL. But that's what the playoffs are all about. Nerves, jitters, pressure, the works. In overtime, and for the time is would take to play an entire second game, both goaltenders performed at the level which is expected of playoff goaltenders. Absolutely perfect. It's a shame one of them had to take a loss.

Also, as would be expected from our rabid cousins to the north, I don't think a single person left the rink until the game ended. Now THAT, my friend, is what being a hockey fan is all about.

From here, I expect both teams to settle down significantly, and I'll go so far as to guarantee you won't see another 5-4 score in that series. I'll be shocked if either team manages more than 2 in the next game, seeing as the players must be thoroughly exhausted after playing more than 2 entire games worth of hockey.

In the other Western Conference thriller, Patrick Rismiller and the Sharks felt the full range of playoff emotion in his game against a feisty Predators squad. Rismiller first coughed the puck up in his own zone off a lazy (one might even say Eminger-esque) clear attempt less than six feet from the blueline, which allowed the Predators to hold possession in the zone. They promptly scored, evening the game and casting Rismiller as the goat.

But the great thing about the Stanley Cup playoffs is that no role lasts forever unless your team gets eliminated. Rismiller redeemed himself by tipping home a Patrick Marleau pass halfway through the second overtime, securing the win and a 1-0 Sharks lead in the series. Redemption can be a beautiful thing (if you're a Sharks fan).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Stupid ping pong balls

Per Tarik, the Caps were knocked back one spot when the Blackhawks won this year's weighted draft lottery. Given the lack of a consensus top pick and the lack of players considered NHL ready in their first year of eligibility, it's not the worst thing in the world. Still stings a bit, though.

Let the speculation begin! Will the Caps take a center, a right wing, or a defenseman (I think we may have our netminder of the future in Varlamov)? Will they package the pick in a draft day trade? Will they pick a blue chip Alex (Ovechkin) or a cow chip Alex (Volchkov)? Only time will tell.

And before anyone (but me) starts complaining about the bouncing balls, remember the Caps won the first weighted lottery. Now if I could only remember who they picked first overall...

Monday, April 9, 2007

All things must come to an end

Another year, another Capitals season done before its time. The Caps were unable to put together a three game winning streak to end the season, falling 2-0 to the Buffaslugs. Kris Beech had two of the best opportunities for the Caps, which is why they ended the game with a goose egg. Indeed, if the Capitals could have taken advantage of their opportunities, they might have won the game. However, the inability to finish chances again proved their undoing.

Two observations on Buffalo. One, Ryan Miller is good. Real good. But he isn't as good as the Caps made him look Saturday. For example, at first glance Miller's save on a one timer from a wide open Beech appeared to be an all-world save. Until you realize that 1) Beech took an extra second to settle the puck, so it wasn't a one-timer at all and 2) that gave Miller the time he needed to set and kick across to make the stop. Good save, yes. But it was just as much a poor offensive decision. Hopefully, the Caps will have guys with better offensive instincts to finish off plays like that next year.

Second, Daniel Briere is an absolute pansy. If there was any doubt before he was tossed for spearing, it's gone now. This is the second time against the Caps Briere has used his stick as a weapon in one season. It shows an utter lack of respect for the opposing players and the game of hockey in general. But from a class act like Briere, we've come to expect no less. If the Caps sign him instead of Drury or Gomez this summer, my head might explode.

As a side note, Fan Appreciation Night proved to be an exercise in frustration. Yes, it was nice that prizes were given to the fans throughout the game. That part of the day was well-organized and executed. And it was great to see all the members of the team, even the injured ones, on the ice at the end of the season. But there was an issue which kept a lot of folks from enjoying the entire game. For some reason, the concessions stands on the 4th floor were less than half staffed, which led to lines so long that some folks (such as my girlfriend) had to wait in line for OVER HALF of the second period. Not the experience you want fans to take away from the last game of the season.

And so we come to the end of another Caps season. We've seen the good (Olie Kolzig's consistently outstanding play, the wizardry of Semin's stickhandling and the power of Ovechkin firing a wrister in full stride). We've seen the bad (the team's dowright futile road record in the second half of the season, the regression of a very young defense, the rash of injuries after the all star break). We've definitely seen the ugly (several downright atrocious performances against the Florida Panthers).

But with all we've seen, this offseason promises to offer the one thing that's been in short supply for Capitals fans. Hope. The team now has the chance to build on a solid foundation of young talent. I don't think the same has been said about a Caps team in 15 years. Not even in their best years did the Caps have the top-flight offensive talent that has been on display at the V this season. With all due respect to Peter Bondra, who was a scoring machine on a team with almost no other offensive options, the Capitals have never had an Ovechkin before. They certainly haven't had two players with the amazing offensive gifts that Semin and Ovechkin have.

Yes, they certainly have holes to fill. Lots of them. But with the core of the offense (Ovechkin, Semin, Clark, Backstrom, Gordon, Fleischmann, and Eric Fehr if his back ever heals) set for next year, the future looks bright. And with the another year's experience, this young defense has a lot of potential. And while I'm the first one to say the Caps need to be active in free agency and possibly trade some of their stockpiled draft picks and young talent for established players, the future of this team looks bright. Keep your chins up, Caps fans. Better days are on the horizon.

And always remember:

Let's go Caps!
Let's go Caps!
Let's go Caps!

Update: There's a great shot of the Deuce with his newly won Alex Ovechkin signed puck at Japers' end of the year shindig up at Japer's Rink. As usual, I won nothing.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

And we're rolling!

Another day, another Caps win. I could get used to this.

Again, the Russian Machine looked spectacular, scoring twice despite being shadowed by an opposing forward every shift he was on the ice. He scored on an unstoppable snipe from the slot on the power play, and again on a positively evil wrister off a takeaway.

Note to Atlanta. We've told you this before, but apparently you just don't get it. We'll try it real slow for you (we know you southerners need a little more time to digest things).


There. That aught to do it. Make sure you forward this to all of your defensemen before they think of lining Ovechkin up again. It was all well and good when he and Kovalchuk were going at each other one on one like they do every game they play one another. But you had to go and have one of your defensemen get involved, to try to get a nice big hit on Ovie. The Russian Machine was not amused.

He spent the next few minutes looking to line someone up and knock them into next season, but settled down and channeled his rage into an offensive showing worthy of the best power forward in the NHL. Once the Russian Machine got geared up, there was simply no stopping him.

Evil Brent Johnson once again tried to make his presence felt, giving up what appeared to be a goal off a terrible clearing attempt. He was saved by a high sticking call, and was banished in favor of Good Brent Johnson for the rest of the game. Good BJ made a slew of impressive saves late in the third, denying Atlanta on an extended 6 on 3 power play to secure the victory.

Now, if tonight wasn't evidence enough that Ovechkin and Semin (who missed the game with a foot injury) should be playing on separate lines, I don't know what is. It's clear that Ovechkin thrives when he is the undisputed top guy on the line. He doesn't worry about making nifty passes or trying to get the puck to his opposite wing. He does what he does best: get a head of steam up and attack the goal. With he and Semin on the same line, there simply isn't enough puck to go around, so both players end up a little worse off. Hopefully this will be remedied when (not if, WHEN) the Caps pick up a couple big time players this offseason to bolster the attack. With two legitimate scoring lines, it only makes sense to have the two natural left wings playing on different lines.

The Caps close out the season at home this Saturday, taking on the Buffalo Slugs at 1 PM at the V. If you don't have tickets, go get them. NOW. And if you win a Matt Bradley jersey at Fan Appreciation Day, you might want to pass it along to one of your friends at Grumpy Caps Fans. C'mon, you know you want to :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Now THAT'S a response

Just when it seemed the Caps season had hit its low point, they delivered a rugged, hard working performance and finally lock down a lead, securing a 1-0 win over the Panthers. Nevermind that the game itself was mostly forgettable. Nevermind that the Caps were outshot and generally outplayed. There were only three things that mattered from last night. First, the play of the Russian Machine, who simply would not be denied. The second was the shutdown performance of the man who took his teammates to task only two days ago, Olie Kolzig, who reminded players and fans alike why he above all others has the right to call any and everyone playing in front of him out when he sees fit. And finally, the Caps were able to win two points at home in regulation, not surrendering the early lead created by an Ovechkin strike in tight.

Kolzig was an absolute monster in goal. Not only did he make several sterling saves, but he also commanded control of the entire defensive area around the crease. He stopped shots, he cleared rebounds, and he swallowed the puck when the defense needed to regroup. He continued to set the gold standard for effort and will to win, playing between the pipes like a man possessed. The only time he seemed to tire even momentarily was during stoppages in play, and he snapped back to full attention as soon as the puck was dropped. As has happened so often this season, Olie was the difference between winning and losing. A lesser goaltender would have folded under the weight of Florida's advance. Not Kolzig. His pride wouldn't allow it.

The Russian Machine also made his presence known all night against Florida. He was in constant motion, attacking the Florida zone from all angles at high speed. He played physically and with power, knocking players off the puck and attacking defensemen head on. Although he had several shot attempts blocked, he still managed to deposit a quick snapshot into the net off a pass from Brooks Laich. He generally treated his opponents the same way he treated his Ipod earlier this week. He broke them down.

This game was important from another standpoint. It was the team's best chance to get a win at home before the end of the season. The Caps last game before the season's end comes Saturday against a geared up for the playoff Buffalo squad, against which a win will be hard to secure. And it's important to the confidence of the players and coaches not to simply slide into oblivion at the end of the year. It was also a great gift to the fans that have stuck with this team through some very, very dark times. But rest assured Caps fans, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We'll have to wait until next year to see it, but it's coming.

The Caps now hop on the bus and head down to Atlanta, where they take on the Southeast Division leading Thrashers tonight. Game time is 7 PM.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A dillema

how does one write a game preview about a team the Caps just played a couple days ago? It's easy.

We want REVENGE!!!!

Okay, not that kind of revenge. More like this kind: