Monday, October 31, 2005

Heartbreak in Tampa

Capitals 2, Lightening 4

Sorry I haven't posted all weekend, but had a chance to catch the game and what a game it was. Alexander Ovechkin had two spectacular goals to put the caps in the lead twice. But the Stanley Cup Champs were just too much for the young squad.

I loved the Capitals work ethic in this game. It was even a better performance than in Buffalo, it's just the puck wasn't bouncing our way. The Caps can not lose faith in their new system, which seems to be working. Head coach Glen Hanlon is doing a much better job of selling his system to the club, and the players are responding.

Overall Grade: C+

The Caps need more goal support, Ovechkin can't do it alone. A bright side is that the veterans seem to know it's do or die time. Chris Clark is being more and more aggresive on the ice, Andrew Cassels passes are finding their mark, and Jeff Friesen is getting is signature slap shot closer to the mark.

Players that need to get it together, Dainius Zubrus. Of the 5 or 6 oppurtunities he had on an odd-man rush, he failed to convert. Zubie, shoot it or pass, but do something! Also lost in the fold is Brian Sutherby, I have hardly heard anything from Sutherby in all 11 games he has played.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ok Colorado, You Had Your Night

... Now move on.

I expected the game to get out of hand on the other side of the boards as fans show Todd Bertuzzi exactly where he can go. I expected the fans to boo, to curse, to yell, to make obscene gestures and to make Bertuzzi's night uncomfortable.

Some of it was actually funny, a couple of guys in a cardboard prison and wearing stripes saying they were being Bertuzzi for Halloween. Some of it was not funny, like a fan pouring his beer over the head of a female fan wearing Bertuzzi's jersey.

I understand the emotions coming from the Avalanche faithful and it was their night to be upset at a player that took one of their own away. It may be unfair that Bertuzzi can play while Steve Moore is struggling through physical therapy. Some say Bertuzzi should have been suspended until Moore could play again, others think he should have been gone for a year, and others who felt he had served his time.

With all that said, it was the Denver's night to let Bertuzzi know their displeasure. But now it's time to return to civility, and let the game go forward. I wouldn't mind the heckles each time Bertuzzi touched the puck at the Pepsi Center, or a few boos if he scored a goal. But for the good of the game, let the recklessness end. Let the game go on.

No more dressing up in prison wear, no more pouring beer on other people. Let the action on the ice speak for itself. I implore every Avalanche fan to conduct themselves higher than just an unrulely mob of miscreants.

If any Colorado fans wish to leave a comment, please do so with some language restraint.

-- Other Notes --
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins have won a game. (damn, now my knock knock joke doesn't work anymore, Me - "Knock, Knock!" My Pens Friend - "Whose there?" "Oh" "Oh, who?" "Oh and 9 baby, Ha ha ha!" *click*) Mario Lemieux willed this win to life with 5 points. Sidney Crosby's tiny little point seemed to be buried in the Lemiux and Sergei Gonchar goals.
  • Brendan Witt returns after coming to the aid of his wife and two young daughters that were in Florida when Hurricane Wilma pushed through. He will be dressed for tonights game. The full story of his experience is chronicled on the Wash Post.
  • If you want to know how Hurricane Wilma has affected the Panthers. Good editorial.

Game tonight against the Lightening in Tampa Bay. Go Caps! Preview

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Putting A Good Game Together

Capitals 3, Sabres 2

The Caps finally turned on some offensive pressure. If you can believe it, the Capitals out shot the Sabres in all three periods. I know! I had to take a double take on that stat as well. The Caps have been giving up about 40 shots a game until now.

I am extremely happy that Jeff Friesen and Petr Sykora got goals. Friesen's goal came just 22 seconds after Ales Kotalik power play goal for the Sabres. The Capitals seemed almost more relaxed and more confident. The Capitals finally used their speed and offense to keep the Sabres off kilter.

Brendan Witt was a healthy scratch for the game, and I didn't even miss him. Witt is still in S. Florida with his family after Hurricane Wilma ripped through the state. Without Witt, the only penalty against the Capitals was in the third period was Jeff Halpern's holding call early in the frame.

To be honest with you, I gave this game to Buffalo, and taped the game to watch later. My wife and I watched Martha Stewart's apprentice (not as good as the Trump) and I tried to push the game out of my head. When my phone messenger went off alerting the game had ended, I checked it twice.

It's the reason this post is a little late, because I had to watch the game. And I was giddy watching the game. Maybe I need to stop watching the games live.

Overall Grade: B+

The Caps put together a great game, and the grade would have been higher except the Caps need to be more consistent with their play. The grade should improve, if the Caps next game shows as much improvement as they did in this game. I would like to see Chris Clark and Andrew Cassels pick up their pace and get some goals. Jury is still out for bringing Brooks Laich up from Hersey.

Wash Post picks up the rest of the gorey details.

-- Other Notes --

  • Predators lose to the Blue Jackets. If I said that 2 years ago, it would mean very little, but the Blue Jackets finally hand Nashville their first loss of the season off a Overtime goal by Adam Foote.
  • Was it just me or was that the most boring World Series ever?!! When one of my friends called me and told me the White Sox won, I actually yawned. I am not a big Baseball fan to begin with, but I could have done without 6 hour games.
  • This just in, Penguins still suck! Sorry Pittsburgh fans. But the Steelers are still playing so I won't show too much sympathy. (10/28 Penguins win first game agianst Thrashers)

Next Caps game against the Lightening on Friday 10/28, 7:30 PM.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Moving Around

Ben Clymer is a defenseman, he was just a small defenseman. He was persuaded by the Lightening (his former team) to play forward to save his career in the NHL. But now he is going back on the blue line.

Wash Post has the story in full. I think the NHL will have more players that are quick and playmakers back in the defensive position. Many players that were told because of their size that they wouldn't make it to the big leagues. Now that has changed. Smaller, faster, and assist men are being highlighted on the blue line.

Smaller defensemen have always had a hard time selling their craft in the NHL, but now it seems to be in demand. More power plays around the League have a forward at the point, and some 3 men penalty kills we are seeing two forwards and one defensemen more and more.

Other moves the Caps made was to recall Brooks Laich (Like) from Hersey and sent Boyd Gordon down to Hersey. Laich has been playing well and scoring, Gordon has been held scoreless. Bryan Muir will return to the line up tonight as well. Still trying to find that perfect mix.

--Other Notes--

  • Penguins remain the only winless team in the NHL after losing to a distracted Florida Panther team 4-3. A late penalty against Mario Lemieux infuriated the superstar and he screamed at the Refs. Hey Mario, welcome to the Capitals world.
  • Predators are still undefeated after hand a shalacking to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Matthew Barnaby had a busy night with one goal and two fights, the first of which happened just 3 seconds into the game. Thatta boy Barnaby, why waste time with the playing and what not?
  • The Capitals vs. Florida game on Saturday has been postponed indefinitely due to Hurricane Wilma. They have yet to restore power to the Bankatlantic Center.
  • Tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres will be in Rochester NY, at the Blue Cross Arena. The Sabres are trying to persuade more fans in Rochester to travel to Buffalo in order to boost attendance.

One game at a time boys.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Division Points Crucial

The NHL wanted more rivalries, to pepper up the game a little bit. It's all apart of being fan friendly, to make the game much more exciting. For the Capitals, that means a little over a third of all their games this season is against the Southeast Division.

32 games agianst the Panthers, Lightening, Hurricanes, and Thrashers. It so important, more now than ever for the Capitals to take away those points from their rivals. Something they haven't done at all this season. The Caps are only 1-5 so far against teams they have to face another 26 times.

Even if the Capitals fair poorly agianst the Southest Division, there are 50 other games they have to play. 38 of those agianst Eastern Conference teams. The Capitals are second to last in the Conference (only the Penguins are worst), and are playing in the worst division in the Eastern Conference.

Only Carolina has a winning record agianst other teams in the east (3-1). Florida (2-3), Tampa Bay (1-2-1), and Atlanta (1-3) have not been able to pull many wins out of the Atlantic and Northeastern Divisions. Washington is 1-1.

That makes playing division rivals very important for the Washington Capitals. If they can take points away from teams that may not be able to pick up agianst the Eastern Conference, then the Capitals can make a run to improve their situation.

No one feels very confident that the Caps are going to be making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. However, they can take points from their rivals, and at the very least make the race for first in the Southeast interesting.

The Capitals need to make these games count now, to play their very best agianst their divisional foes. It pushes the Caps into the mind set of how important it is to take points from their division. They may not make any headway this season, but it will be crucial for next season.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Kolzig Traded?

Breaking news from Edmonton, they are looking for a netminder and Olaf Kolzig is on the menu according to sources at the Edmonton Sun. While other goaltenders were mentioned, Kolzig might be the ideal choice.

It may just be a rumor. Let's hope.

Jussi Markkanen: 2-4-1, 2.87 GAA, .902 SV% (the Probable Trade w/ draft pick?)

Olaf Kolzig: 3-5-0, 4.08 GAA, .894 SV%

Also there seems to be a little bit of interest in Brendan Witt. Teams looking at the 30 year old defenseman, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Edmonton, and Boston. No word on who Witt will be traded with, but the Caps may not be able to land a more verteran D-man.

A Team Beaten

The cool thing about being a Washington Capitals fan is that we have an owner that is very fan friendly, which includes post game video of players in the locker room on For a person like me that has been in Sports Radio, there is nothing that tells the story more than the looks on the faces of the players after the game. Below are some of the interviews after the 4-0 shelling from the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. Just take and look and you will see a beaten team. Even if you don't have audio, just watch the videos.

Olaf Kolzig can't look anyone in the eye while talking about the game.

Jeff Friesen almost looks depressed and saddened.

Steve Eminger takes it hard, voice low and searching for words.

Glen Hanlon is finally showing some signs of frustration, although very minor signs.

All of the Caps voices are low, and most of the conversations you hear in the background is mostly other reporters. The Caps took this one hard, you can tell by their manners and in how they are speaking. They are frustrated and perplexed and any other quizzical word you can come up with.

Most Caps fans knew coming into this season that we were going to be treated to one heck of a rollercoaster, but I see the competivness in the eyes of this team. They want to win. I expect a few harder practices and some steam let off over the next couple of days.

I had a coach once tell me, "It's okay to lose big sometimes, but only if you learn from your mistakes and apply that knowledge the next time you hit the ice to better yourself."

Wise words. So I may vent, I may yell and cry fowl. But I will be watching the next game to see if the Caps can learn from a big loss, and put together a better game.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Remind Me Why I'm A Caps Fan

Capitals 0, Hurricanes 4

The most pathetic game thus far, even Alexander Ovechkin could do little to help the dismal Capitals. Everytime I saw the puck around Capitals players, they were facing the other way, or passing to no one, or doing about a thousand things players shouldn't do. After praising the efforts of Steve Eminger, I am ready to send the defenseman packing to Hersey. Every time he pretends to play defense, it ends up hurting the Caps and getting stupid penalites.

If I was a veteran on this team right now I would be in George McPhee's office every day and asking, begging, pleading to be traded. I can't see how George sells this to the teams owner, "You know Ted, we may not have any defenseman but we have a big goaltender and we will just go and waste every draft pick and talented player away getting forwards that do not peform."

It's a rebuilding year, I know, I get it. But while other teams in the "rebuilding" mold have been able to put together a game or two where they didn't kill themselves on stupid penalties. I would start to fine players that spend more than 2 min a game in the box.

Maybe it's McPhee, maybe it's Glen Hanlon. We don't have an experienced coach behind the bench. Ron Wilson should have never been let go, at least the Sharks are benefiting. All I hear Hanlon say during post game interviews, "Ya, he is, ahh . . . he is improving a lot ya know." Watching him on the bench is a barrel of monkeys too (sarcasism alert). He shows no emotion, he doesn't get mad at the younger players, he stays reserved, but never talks to the troops in front of him. Your the coach for creep's sake, get on them when they do something wrong.

And just a note in the third, what the hell is with the organ playing "Take me out to the ballgame?" I think I will take my money from the Capitals and save it for the Nationals, thanks for the idea game operations. (My best Napoleon Dynamite impression) Idiots!

Overall Grade: F

Wash Post has their story here. Dont hold your breath for any new problems that has arisen from the dismal play of the Caps, just the same broken record: inexperienced Defensemen. Now I don't have Ovechkin's point streak to keep me happy now.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I should have been a Capital.

Surprised in Sunrise

Capitals 2, Panthers 3

As close as the score may be, the Caps only played for two periods. Apparently after escaping the first period in good shape, they certainly did not show up in the second period. The Panthers outshot the Caps 28 - 6 in the second period (compared to the Capitals outshooting the Panthers 25 - 21 in the first and third periods), even forcing Brendan Witt and Steve Emminger to withstand an onslaught over 3 minutes in their defensive zone, not letting the Capitals change players. The Panthers also scored all of their goals on special teams, 2 powerplay goals, and a shorthanded goal that Juraj Kolnik capitalized on sloppy passing from from Jamie Heward.

Meanwhile, both goals by the Caps were at even strength. Alexander Ovechkin scored both goals, keeping his point streak alive through all 8 games this season. The Caps used their speed and fresh legs early, but only to relax after Ovechkin's goal at 1:50 into the game. The Caps couldn't even get the puck out of their zone, sloppy passes, bad dumps and miscommunication was a constant for the Caps.

Ovechkin's second goal was spectacular after the Florida defenseman slipped on the play and Ovechkin used his speed to get by the defender. It had looked like Roberto Luongo saved the initial shot, but it popped up over the goaltender and into the net. Capitals bright spot continues to shine.

Overall Grade: C-

The grade would have been much worse, if the Panthers were able to score at even strength, but they didn't (the new defensive system has to be working). In terms of 5 on 5 goals the Caps would have won 2-0. The Capitals do need to be more careful with their passes and breakouts. However the shots keep coming to the net, as Florida outshot the Caps 49-31. The Caps failed to win any one-on-one battles, and they were outworked and out hustled all night by a team that was supposedly tired.

Wash Post continues to harp the Capitals on their lack of defensive experience and Dave Fay hit the nail on the head at the Wash Times.

Caps need to improve on passing and breakouts. Then come to the realization that the game isn't over after the first goal.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shoot, Shots, Shucks?

Okay, I will let you into a little secret: There is such a thing as letting good shots go to the net. Goaltenders at any level will tell you what the easiest saves are shots 15 feet out around the top of the circles. Outside shots on net have a small probability to make it in the net (depending on your goaltender).

If you go to a game early check out the warm-ups and watch when all the players line up and shoot rapidly at the goaltenders. Notice the guys on the ends of that line when they shoot from those perspectives. You will almost always notice the goaltender doesn't have to do much to make that save. If you shoot from an angle on the net, the surface area of the net shrinks.

I am sure there are some complex mathematics involved and if was that smart I would have pasted all those numbers here and show off my intellect powers for you to awe at. But I was told there would be no math here!

A lot of bloggers look at the enormous amount of shots the Caps have taken to be a really bad thing. Well kinda.

If a goaltender faces good outside shots, his probable changes for the save is good. Example, Brent Johnson when given a good shooting lane whenever the Islanders were on a powerplay. With no traffic in front of him, he stopped shot after shot that the Caps gave the Islanders to shoot which was an outside shot, 10-15 feet out. Each time the puck was shot right into Johnson's chest, no rebound.

Ask any goaltender and they will tell you that they can make that save every time. So if the Caps are taking a large number of shots, they may just be letting those outside shots in. Olaf Kolzig and Johnson are good enough to make that save.

-- Other Notes --
  • Pittsburgh Penguins still looking for a win. There is a God and he hates Sidney Crosby (sorry Pens fans mainly my sister).
  • Islanders finally get win against the Rangers after going 0-8-2 in their previous meetings.
  • Kris Draper is now wearing a visor after a close call with a puck in the eye. Draper said he was "lucky" and brings up the question whether the NHL should make visors mandatory.
  • Gary Bettman is happy about the fans response to the new NHL. "For the first time in a long while, the NHL has momentum," said Bettman in Toronto. Too bad he hasn't been at the MCI Center this year.

Dainius Zubrus gets some ink and love from the Wash Post, as the Caps get ready to face off against the Panthers tonight at the Bankatlantic Center. 7 pm start time. Damn that interferes with my "Survivor" time! Ah well, the wife will understand (maybe not).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

By The Numbers

Stats I thought were interesting for the Washington Capitals:

  • 11 - 15: Goals For - Goals Against when 5 on 5 (compare that to 5 goals for on the powerplay and 13 goals agianst on the penalty kill)
  • 4.71: Goals Against Average (30th in the League)
  • 1: Goals Agianst when down two men
  • 1.000: Winning percentage when Washington is leading after the second period by a goal
  • 3rd: Place Capitals are tied for in Shoot Outs among the 14 teams that have gone to shoot out in regular season play

The Wash Post also talked about the amount of shots the Capitals are facing, 39.3 per game. The Caps are working on mimizing the shots agianst on their days off before playing Florida tomorrow night. Olaf Kolzig had a good quote in the article:

"It's not quantity; it's quality of shots," Kolzig said. "If we can eliminate the quality shots, that's a good start ... In the loss to Atlanta at home, I faced [39] shots, but it felt like 60 because there were a lot of scoring chances. Against Tampa, they had 40 shots, but it wasn't as busy a night."

The Capitals play at the Bankatlantic Center to play the Florida Panthers tomorrow at 7 p.m.
TV Comcast Sports Net, Radio 570 AM

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why Wait 3 Years, Signs of Growth Now

The Washington Post did a great article on Steve Eminger and how his improvement after being sent down to the minors in the '03 - '04 season is now paying off for the Capitals. Eminger was always supposed to be the fast offensive minded defenseman, and with the new "no grabbing, clutching, and hooking" rules, he has more room to work his speed and offensive know how on the ice.

However, it still seems as though GM George McPhee is ignoring the problem on the blue line. The inexperienced defensman in front of Olaf Kolzig has been the story line for every game. Just watching opposing team's broadcasts of the Capitals games they all say the same. Crash the net, use your veteran forwards to aggressively attack the D-men and they will make a mistake.

With the Caps win over the Lightening, we saw the center coming back to help play defense. In the Capital's zone, they look more like a penalty kill setup with a box with the center low, close to the goal. Glen Hanlon is obviously looking to the forwards to help with the defense.

Sure if you have five defensemen out there, it would be harder to score. The Caps now have to be patient and be opportunistic goal scorers. So players like Eminger can play up and use their speed on the aggressive forecheck.

Of course you have to do that in an empty building, as attendance at the MCI Center are dismal. Let's hope the NHL is serious about keeping teams or we may be first on the chopping block.

--Other Notes --
  • The New York Rangers continue to perform well with a big win against another hot team, the Florida Panthers (who would have thought that). Jaromir Jagr scored twice on power play goals in the exact same spot on the ice. Apparently Jagr now is trying to prove he is worth the money New York is spending on him.
  • Steve Shields may be the saving grace in net for the goalie-less Atlanta Thrashers. After losing starter Kari Lehtonen and back up Mike Dunham to groin injuries, the Thrashers have been on the look out for a suitable replacement in net.
  • Who said that "Cujo" was past his prime? Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph gives Wayne Gretzky's team a big win on the road against the Calgary Flames. Cujo posted a shutout with 25 saves and he is 25-8-3 against the Flames. Talk about domination.

Preparing for the Carolina rematch on Thursday! Bring on the 'Canes (again)!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wow, They Took My Advice!

The two things I loved about the new rule changes. 1) They opened up the game, and 2) they took my advice. Okay, the NHL didn’t read my website and said, “Hey, Garrett’s got a great idea!” But I can dream. When I started this website, the NHL started using wins-losses-ties-overtime losses for a team’s statistics. I said that the league should have a shoot out after 5 minutes of overtime during the regular season. At least there would be some finality to the game, and you could have 2 spaces in your team stats: wins-loses.

That will make it easier for someone who is not familiar with hockey to make sense of the stats. But I wanted to go farther and eliminate the 2 points for a win, and one point for making it through overtime. Just go by games won, much like baseball. Then you will hear great sounding questions like, "How many games back are the Rangers from winning the Eastern Conference?" Well maybe a bad example (sorry Ranger fans), but I believe making the stats into some very simple mathematics makes the race for number one simple and easy to follow.

By doing it that way, team stats will be similar to baseball and football. Just wins and losses. No ties or overtime losses, or times where the mascot got its tongue ripped out by the coach. Simple, right?

-- Other Notes –

  • Atlanta Thrashers find themselves retooling their system after being out scored in three games 16-2. I guess there is such thing as Karma, as the Caps put together 2 good games after being beat in back to back games against the now flailing Thrashers.
  • Ottawa Senators lose Martin Havlat who will be suspended for kicking a player during a game against Boston. Not only will he not play for 5 games, but he also forfeits $66,326.55. I don’t think he will be doing that again for awhile.
  • New York Islander Rick Dipietro is cleared to practice with the team after recovering from a minor concussion. Jeff Halpern skated into the goaltender while he was sprawled out on the ice to make the save.
  • Two players named players of the week in the NHL: Steve Sullivan of Nashville and Bryan McCabe of Toronto.

Next Caps game on Thursday, October 20 against Florida.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Shootout in DC

Capitals 3, Lightening 2 OT

Capitals started the game with dumb penalties. Allowing the Stanley Cup champions 6 powerplays in a period usually means losing the game. But the penalties seemed to wake up the Caps. Caps keep the game close with goals by Chris Clarke and Dainius Zubrus.

For the first time the Capitals beared down and played good defense against an explosive offensive team. The Caps began to play gritty and tough. They stopped over pursuing and biting on big plays. Caps defensive core finally were able to put together a solid good 2 periods. Mike Green filled in nicely and played very well in the new NHL.

They may not have won in regulation, but the Caps did force overtime and finally to the shoot out. And Olaf Kolzig played like a champ versus the likes of Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent LeCavalier (LeCavalier the only one to score in the shootout). When Kolzig made the second save on Richards, he pumped his fists in celebration and a little bit of relief. And it was a well deserved win.

Overall Grade: A

The Caps have finally realized that hard work in the defensive end can lead to good opportunistic goals on the offensive end. The Caps spent their time off working on even strength defense and it paid off. Kudos to the coaching staff for getting tougher on the team to perform better in front of Kolzig.

The Wash Post covered the details of Kolzig's performance in the net, and how the Caps played better when following the system.

Capital Petr Sykora received the number one star and Steve Eminger who had greatly improved his play of late got star #3. Only 10,002 in attendance, the Capitals are in last place for Fan turnout in the NHL. Don't look for that to change any time soon.

Caps take a few days off before playing in Florida on Thursday.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Brett Hull Retires

Phoenix Coyote Brett Hull couldn't face another losing season. At least that isn't what he will be saying, but I had a feeling he wasn't into the NHL anymore. Arizona Republic got the scope and Hull will hang up his skates and retire from the NHL tonight.

Even during the Lockout, it seemed that Hull was not interested in coming back. He took the job in Phoenix to be closer to his friend Wayne Gretzky. When I think of Hull, of all those years in St. Louis, shooting the puck to demolish the old stadium when the built the new one, then being traded to Detroit for the sole purpose of winning a Stanley Cup.

I met his father once, in upstate New York. Bobby Hull was a polite and fun guy. He even took me aside and showed me how to shift my weight to get more power out of my slap shot. He was proud of his son Brett too, having loads of posters of Brett in his car trunk. He signed a little post card for me that I still have and sits on my desk. "To Garrett, Best in sports! Bobby Hull."

I am sure he wrote that to everyone, but I remember thinking I was finally apart of the fraternity of hockey because I met Bobby Hull and he said I was an alright kid.

It's a little sad to see Brett take an early bow, but I know if he isn't creating other hockey leagues, he defiantly a strong voice for players everywhere, no matter their skill level.

-- Other Notes --
  • Atlanta Thrashers put goaltender Mike Dunham on Injured Reserve. The Thrashers now have two rookie goaltenders Michael Garnett and Adam Berkhoel in net as Dunham and starting goalie Kari Lehtonen benchwarm.
  • Other Thrasher's news, Andy Sutton suspended for four games following a blow to the head against Leaf's Darcy Tucker.
  • Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore and Yvan Cournoyer will have their jerseys retired by the Montreal Canadiens this season. Is there any numbers left for the Habs to wear? Guess they will have to start wearing fractions.
  • Minor league's players union threatens lawsuit against the new CBA. Guess we should have asked them if it was ok to start the season.

That's it for now, have a great weekend!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Caps Fall Again

Capitals 3, Islanders 5

In the first period it looked like it was going to be another blow out. I had some work to do late in my office and ended up hearing the first 4 goals on 570 AM. The Islanders dominated the first period, which used to be the Capitals strong point in their previous 3 games. But the Caps battled back to make it 3-2 with goals by Steve Eminger and Matt Bradley. Unfortunatly the Islanders battled back themselves early in the third.

Goaltender back-up Brent Johnson was in goal for the Caps and look shakey in the first period, but then settled down to make some good saves. The Capitals Defense again failed to show any sign of improving as Johnson faced 49 shots, making 44 saves. Johnson still had his red pads and the Coyotes logo on his helmet with a small Caps sticker on the chin. It was a cute look with the black and bronze jerseys the Caps wear.

Ovechkin continues his point streak to six games with an assist. After the Game, the Caps held a players only meeting, obviously frustrated with their season start.

Overall Grade: D-

I thought the Caps deserved something better for never quitting. Even down 5-2, the Caps pushed in the Third to make something happen and Bradley's second goal electrified the Caps strength: Aggresive forechecking. But the Defense core will be (and is) the overwhelming factor this season. I would start considering spending a little and getting 2 veteran defenseman.

The Crowd was very small at the MCI Center. As I watch the rest of the game at home my wife jokes, "Does DC have a hockey team?" I did my best Waterboy impression, "Oh, We suck agian!!"

Wash Post covers the game, and Eminger stated the obvious:

"I definitely don't think it's effort, it's bearing down and executing the game plan," Eminger said. "You can blame it on age. But we're all in the NHL and we're here for a reason, so we know how to play the game. It's concentrating for the full 60 minutes. We aren't doing that."

The whole game is 60 minutes, so you should play for that long too.

Caps have a couple days off, which I assume they will use to work on what to fix. The Caps face Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightening on Sunday at 6 pm. A Sunday game should bring out a few fans to the MCI Center.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hurricanes Beat Caps

Capitals 2, Hurricanes 7

Whatever Hurricane coach Peter Laviolette said in the locker room between the 2nd and 3rd periods obviously worked. After the Captials played good hard 2 periods they were out shot 21-2 in the third. The Capitals were able to out shoot their Southeast Division rivals in the previous two periods 26-15.

Defenseman Niclas Wallin scored the second goal for the Capitals, which is bad because he plays for Carolina. Wallin was passing to his goaltender after a slashing penalty agianst Capital Steve Eminger, Carolina's goaltender Cam Ward had already made his break to the bench after the delay call from the Refs. Dainius Zubrus was credited for the goal, but the Hurricanes scored on the powerplay to tie the game.

I thought the Caps played well, they just didn't finish. I am glad that after the sixth goal that Glen Hanlon pulled Kolzig, not because he was playing badly though. Kolzig had kept the game close, but the Capitals didn't show up in the 3rd period.

Alexander Ovechkin got his 4th goal of the season and is the first Capital to score a point in his first 5 games as a rookie. But we would have liked the win. Penalties agian killed the Caps and they need to put a game together for the full 60 minutes of hockey

Overall Grade: D+ (I would almost give them an incomplete for not finishing)

Wash Post covered the game, and Witt was quoted:

"I thought we were in the game until the third," veteran defenseman Brendan Witt said. "We haven't been a very good third-period team. We're not willing to work. I don't think our work ethic is very good in the third."

For once I agree with him.

Capitals play tonight agianst the Islanders, and the Caps will have their captian back. Jeff Halpern did not play in Carolina to observe Yum Kippor. Caps will play at the MCI Center at 7:00 pm
TV - Comcast Sports Net, Radio - 570 AM

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Rules, Rules, Rules

After praising the rule changes, I have finally found a flaw in the armor, goaltender interference. Olaf Kolzig was quoted in the Wash Post:

"I just wish they'd watch out for goaltenders a little more," he said. "It's tough enough trying to stop the puck without having guys falling on you and saying it was accidental.”

I thought maybe Kolzig was just having a bad night, or that the defensive core was too inexperienced to be in front of Kolzig. Then I watched the Colorado’s home opener against the Flames and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was shoved in the crease by Avalanche players all night.

The game itself was a blow out (Avs 7, Flames 3), but even if a Stanley Cup team can’t keep their goaltender safe from being bounced around, Refs need to have the goaltenders back. Goaltenders already are in vulnerable positions while making the save. Especially if they are flexed out on their knees to make a save and the opposing player is camped on the crease line with his stick and body all over the goaltender. There is nothing the defense can do, or else get called for a hold or interference call.

It is the story with a lot of teams that have the great talents to crash the net. The defense is powerless to stop you and the Referees will let players get nice and cozy in the crease. The Capitals in a way have started to figure that out themselves, long shot to the net and crashing it to gobble up the rebound. It happened on a spectacular goal that Emmiger scored against the Rangers with 2 tenths of a second left in the second Period.

But how far is too far, should the league consider bringing back the no player in the crease at all rule or leave it up to the discretion of the Refs? For Kolzig, he knows he is a tough goaltender when the shots are 15 feet out, but in this new NHL it’s different. In the post Kolzig was quoted:

“Five, six years ago, you couldn't put a skate lace in the crease. Now it's no holds barred. [Peter] Bondra was on top of me, Larsen ran into me, [Marc] Savard ran into me."

And it’s not just happening to the Capitals goaltender. Watching the NHL in action, players are getting closer to the goalies and more wrap around attempts and more stuff-it-in plays are abound. If the League doesn’t watch out for the goalies, then it’s not only their save percentage that will be bruised.

Caps play the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at the RBC Center 7:00 pm.
TV - Comcast Sports Net, Radio - 570 AM

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mike Green recalled from Hersey

Breaking news from Hersey, the Capitals have recalled 19 year old defenseman Mike Green. Stephen Peat has been put on injured reserve to make room for the budding defenseman. It's good to see Green back on the roster after a great Preseason, and hopefully he is ready to play reagular season NHL. Many thought that Green was a shoe-in to make the roster, but when push came to shove and the Caps had to narrow their roster, Green was sent to play for the Hersey Bears. Green will turn 20 tomorrow, great birthday present to be called up to play!

So far no one at the Washington Post has really commented, other than putting up the press release. But I will be checking up on them to read the coverage. I am sure that Japersrink will have something up soon.

Welcome back to DC Mike Green, and Happy Birthday.

Columbus Day Win

Caps 3, Rangers 2

Caps pull out a nice win agianst a team that the Capitals are suppose to share last place with. The New York Rangers are a good team, and the Caps finally played a disciplined first and second periods and were able to get away with a 3-2 win agianst the Broadway Blue Shirts.

The Caps made some huge improvements from their last game in Atlanta where the Capitals spent over 22 minutes on the penalty kill. The Caps came into this game with the worst record in the league for penalties, and were routed in two straight games. The Thrashers kinda look like what the Captials were when they first created the Southeast Division.

But the Caps rebounded and that is a big deal. Being young may mean inexperience, but it also means short memories. I did pick on Glen Hanlon a little in my last post, that was more of a vent than analysis of the game, although going back and watching the 8-1 pounding on the Caps by Atlanta I still stand by my grade of F for that game. But this time the Caps did make the transistion and made the right adjustments to play a solid game agianst the Rangers.

Jagr returned to get booed each time he touched the puck, but I heard they played highlights of the Caps from last season and it showed a few of Jagr goals in his Capitals sweater. I mean come on Game Operations, pay attention!

Overall Grade: B+

The Washington Post covered the afternoon game, and gave Ovechkin his due for the game winning goal. And we get a winning quote from the article from the Caps prospect:

"I saw the rebound and when the puck came to me, I said, 'Oh my God, puck,' " said Ovechkin. "I must shoot."

Priceless, I love this guy! By the way, Ovechkin picks up his second #1 star of the game.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Caps lose big

Capitals 1, Thrashers 8

The Caps lose big, and they deserved it. You heard me right, if you can't make the proper adjustments after playing the same team the previous night, then you deserve to lose badly. The Thrashers once again get the early scoring off the power play. Then it just went downhill from there.

Glen Hanlon, with all due respect, "WAKE UP!" Be a coach, reward the players that play hard and stay out of the penalty box and take away the ice time from those who are constantly getting penalized at the most inopportune times. I am sure Leonsis doesn't pay the players to sit in the penalty box (although I haven't asked him lately).

Kolzig was getting beat up in the crease, he should have been pulled after 6 goals. To keep him in the net just made the situation worse, and the Caps did not help Kolzig at all. It was clear what the Thrashers strategy was to crash the net. Kolzig will always stop those shots from 15 feet out, on the edge of the crease is another story. Veteran defenseman would have not let goal scorers like Bondra to sit on the crease line the whole time.

Overall grade: F

Capitals looked like an AHL team, and their inexperience and the penalties was their downfall tonight, but it's the second night you have played this team. If you haven't learned from your mistakes, than your not going to get any better.

The Post covered the game, and Halpern talked about missed chances they had to score on their power plays.

Rangers on Columbus Day at MCI Center, Jagr returns to the booth. The Rangers look pretty good, and it hopefully doesn't turn out to be too big a disaster.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Caps lose to Thrashers, 7-3

When the weather goes bad in DC, driving in this town sucks. After enduring bad traffic on the 14th Street Bridge, I get home and throw some brats in the microwave and pull on my Caps jersey and fight the remote from my wife, just in time to see Peter Bondra score. Normally that would get my arms pumping and screaming like crazy, but this time it was for another team. My wife laughed at me, "You look so confused, isn't a bad thing you get scored against." Then the little graphic appeared on the bottom of the screen, "Bondra has scored a goal against every NHL team." That is just great (sarcasm alert)!

The Capitals loss can be contributed to penalties, the first 4 goals the Thrashers scored were powerplays. Give a talented team like Atlanta powerplays, they are going to bury you every time. The positive is the Thrashers couldn't score at full strength (until late in the game). Kolzig looked way too good to be on a young team, those are saves that need to be complimented with great offense. I didn't care much for pulling the goaltender after your already down 3 goals. What are you accomplishing Hanlon?

Overall grade for the Caps tonight: D+

Washington Post covers the loss and Bondra's return to DC in Atlanta clothing.

Caps play the Thrashers again Saturday night, Brent Johnson gets the nod in net. He should be a pleasant surprise as Kolzig's back up. Caps have to stay out of the penalty box to make it a game.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Brilliance or Blunder of George McPhee

10/6 - You remember Jaromir Jagr, and Robert Lang, a chance to bring a rebirth of the talented Penguins in Capitals sweaters. You might also remember the roles of Peter Bondra, and Sylvain Cote, and Mark Tinordi. Weren’t they were the ones to bring the Stanley Cup to the Nation’s Capital? So, what happened? Didn’t we get to the finals in 1998, only to be swept by the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings or was it just the goals in the Eastern Conference finals that were taken back because a Bruin had a skate in the crease? You’d think if you had a team with the names that have made their way through the Caps Center (yea you heard me, screw the U.S. Air Arena, it was always the Caps Center) and the MCI Center that the Cup would be in a ticket tape parade down Constitution Ave., or passed through the halls of the Capitol. So what was the plan of action?

With the a lock out looming the Caps had to make a decision, either keep the route of big name and big cash veterans (in other words, buy your way to a Cup) or follow the model of the Tampa Bay Lightening by building young players into a competitive team. For the Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis, the choice was an easy one. “Damn the torpedo, young guys ahead!” Unload the big money guys and prepare for the future. They couldn’t have picked a better time. The gamble was that after the lockout there would be a salary cap, which veteran players would be available from other teams that were over their limits. They had the first round pick for the 2004 draft, and they could build a team around a potential star player.

If the change was going to happen, changes had to be made before the potential lockout. Before you knew it, Lang was in Detroit, Jagr landed in New York (where he wanted to go in the first place), and Bondra went out to help Ottawa. And the caps were emptied, except for the guys they just couldn’t part with, or couldn’t find a good enough deal to do away with, Brendan Witt and Olaf Kolzig. With Kolzig, they had a proven winner and solid goaltending, they probably figured the same with Witt in terms of defense. So Alexander Ovechkin was to be the Capitals savior. And it may work. Sure the Caps fans will have at least 2 long seasons of big blowout losses and close game wins, but the turn around is three years, at least it was for Tampa Bay. Then when the young guys are seasoned, the team will look for a mixture of solid players and seasoned veterans.

And Poof, the Capitals are Stanley Cup contenders, with a recipe for success. Or, they could be the farm team to the NHL. If the Capitals can’t produce players to win, they will be producing players that have experience and developed skills to work within other systems out side of the Washington Beltway. So it’s a gamble, and one that Leonsis and McPhee feel will work to their advantage. Only time will tell whether McPhee will be a hero or a goat.

Be a hero George, be a hero.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Preseason Damned, Bring On the Season!

Preseason is just that, preseason. The Caps finish with a disappointing 2-6. However, there is no way to judge a team that is tinkering with lines and developing players to make anything from wins or losses. But now that the games count, it’s time for the Capitals to show some sign of growth and potential to it’s sluggish hockey market.

Some concerns for the Caps this season is defiantly the defensive core. It is the same concern that plagued the team in the ’03-‘04 season. Mike Green, a 19 year-old defenseman, did not make the team after having a solid preseason. A disappointment in this fan's opinion. Meanwhile, Green’s mentor, Brendan Witt, may be a liability rather than reliable on the blue line. Witt has asked for a trade, and whether he plays just to get traded or plays to force a trade is remained to be seen. The two are very different, on the one hand will Witt just go through the motions, or will he play better and adapt to the changing landscape to impress other teams? I guess we will see.

Head coach Glen Hanlon will have to use the Caps youth and speed in some way to win games. The Capitals do have some proven scoring in Jeff Friesen, and solid offensive play in Jeff Halpern, Andrew Cassels, and Dainius Zubrus. With the new rules, the Caps should be able to use their speed and offense to keep teams off kilter.

The Capitals will be going through a growing period for sure, but they also have to learn their roles as the season moves along. It will be a true signature of growth for this young team if the players begin to click together.