Monday, June 26, 2006

Ovechkin's Face Everywhere

Do you know the saying, “It’s all coming up roses.”? Well for the Washington Capitals, it’s all coming up Alexander Ovechkin. With Ovechkin’s success sweeping the hockey world (a.k.a. Canada) the Capitals look to reap the rewards with exposure. My mailbox has exploded with the recent awards and latest news on how Ovechkin is the NHL’s new poster child.

With the season ending not even a month ago, Ovechkin keeps popping up everywhere around the NHL. I was surprised he was not in the analyst booth between periods of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (But NBC does have “the goal” as apart of their NHL on NBC opening).

So much is a stake for the young forward and if Ovechkin isn’t feeling the pressure to bring a championship to D.C. he will be as soon as the Caps start winning games. Not just from the fans of the Capitals, but from management as well.

For the moment the Capitals’ knight in shiny armor is enjoying the ride. From awards ceremony to draft day in Vancouver, hockey fans are recognizing Ovechkin’s true talent. The Capitals couldn’t pay for that kind of attention.

The Calder Trophy award winner Ovechkin isn’t done with his acceptance speeches just yet. #8 is nominated for two ESPY awards. Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best NHL Player. While the former may be a stretch, Ovechkin has a good chance of winning breakthrough.

Ovechkin joins Kimmie Meissner, Shaun White and Chris Paul who were all nominated for Breakthrough Athlete. Jaromir Jagr, Cam Ward and Joe Thornton for best NHL Player.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Caps Defenseless Draft Day

With the 4th overall pick, Washington Capitals were thinking offense. The blue line looks as if it will be collecting dust. Instead of using their draft position to pick up better defensemen, the Capitals again look to beef up the forward lines with their pick.

The Caps 4th pick was Nicklas Backstrom, a left handed centerman, is touted as the next Peter Forsberg. He has a great vision and is a creative playmaker that will aid Alex Ovechkin as a setup man. Playing for Sweden National Team this Olympics, Backstrom was apart of the gold medal team.

Alex Ovechkin was in the building himself and even called out Backstrom’s name as the 4th pick. The commentator even joked about Ovechkin being the general manager. When Ovechkin’s name was announced, the place erupted in applause. It’s the only bright spot to the Caps season, why not show him off?

Their 23rd pick in the first round was Semen Varlamov, a Russian goaltender. The Capitals obtained the 23rd pick from Nashville in the trade of Brendan Witt.

It will still be awhile before seeing if the Capitals pick will help the team. “Maybe one or two years,” Backstrom responded to a question of how soon he will make an impact in a Caps sweater. Let’s hope sooner, than later.

One of the most shocking trades coming on the deadline of the NHL Draft was Todd Bertuzzi for Roberto Luongo. After Florida made a desperate deal to keep the goaltender Luongo, they traded him early Saturday morning. It leads to a surprised Luongo packing his bags to Vancouver.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ovechkin's Car Up For Bid

So looking around the net, I always like to see what’s the haps on Little did I know that I would have the chance to bid on Alex Ovechkin’s Car. Oh that is nice. What!!?!

Ok, who is willing to give me $50,000 to bid. I know you losers have it laying around somewhere. Anyway, you (yes, you) can bid on Alex Ovechkin’s Cadillac Escalade and a “player experience” on the auctions on

Last time I checked bidding was up around $39,500. It also includes tickets to the game (probably in the 400 level), two jerseys (or T shirts), and Ovechkin’s car. Sweet. I think he may have left a few thousand dollars of his bonus pay for scoring 50 goals.

Maybe Japer has $50,000.

Congratulations to Carolina, Stanley Cup Winners

Carolina wins in seven games, who would have guessed?

The Hurricanes gave Carolina its first major championship in the big four of professional sports. The ‘Canes were close to collapse after a rough game at Rexall Place in Edmonton. But a dominate game 7, where Carolina was more physical than in the previous two games, gave the Hurricanes the right to lift the Cup.

Cam Ward is your Conn Smythe winner, although I was sure that Rod Brind’Amour was your lock for the MVP. Cam Ward is only the fourth rookie goaltender to lift the unusually heavy MVP award (as far as I know it doesn’t come with a car either) to the rafters.

Although my writing is somewhat award winning, or at least my mom thinks so, I decided to let the experts let you know of the story of what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. Whatever it takes.

The News & Observer – Cup Stops Here

The Charlotte Observer – Inspired Hurricanes Win Stanley Cup

The Durham Herald Sun – ‘Canes Claim Stanely Cup

Let’s not forget one hell of a team that made a game 7 possible. The Edmonton Oilers played a great series. In fact, their entire playoff run is something legends are made of. While it was fun to see Carolina win the Cup at home, it was also heartbreaking to see the emotion of a game 7 loss on the faces of the Oilers as they quietly watched the ‘Canes celebrate.

Edmonton Journal – Oilers Stormed

Edmonton Sun – A Bitter Ending

So ends an interesting season. My wife is so happy that this will be the last night of hockey. For about three months she will get her TV back and we will be watching tons of home improvement shows and the WE Channel. I can’t wait for draft day.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hershey Bears Gives DC Something To Look Foward To

Congratulations to the Hershey Bears on winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy by beating the Milwaukee Admirals in their own back yard. In a series that never saw a lead change, the Hershey Bears tied the Cleveland Barons for the most Calder Cups in the AHL (9 if you are counting).

And while the first game was a close 2-1 match, the rest of the series has been lopsided wins. Game six was no different as the Bears explode in the first period with 3 goals went ahead and won the Calder Cup in overwhelming fashion with a 5 goal win.

Comcast Sportsnet in Washington played the game late on tape-delay, but all I got was the first 7 minutes of the game before, for some unexplained reason, the channel was blacked out. It will be replayed again this afternoon (Fri. 6/16) at 3 pm.

Now this creates problems for the Washington Capitals. While this is good news for the Caps prospects, those players wishing to keep their jobs in a Caps sweater may have step aside. Rumors are already flying about who is on the chopping block, and who from Hershey will be in a Washington jersey for good next season.

With a confident core of prospect players and some key free agent pick ups, the Caps could improve on their up and down record of the ’05-’06 season. The AHL Championship is an important win for the Capitals, but it doesn’t mean the Caps are on the right road.

14 players on the Hershey squad have played in the big league. Only two have proven they are ready to play at the NHL level. Brooks Laich and Mike Green are two outstanding players that may be in a Caps sweater for good. But others have struggled. Jakub Klepis was not the outstanding playmaker the Caps had hoped for, Eric Fehr couldn’t get his goal scoring touch going, and Thomas Fleischmann was a -7 for 14 games. It could be say that it’s a long road ahead.

Now that the Bears safely have the Calder Cup at the Giant Center in Hershey, and the AHL season is laid to rest for another year, we will have to see what moves the Capitals make in the off season to build a team around Alex Ovechkin and Olaf Kolzig. Should be an interesting summer.

Congrats to Hershey, and thanks for giving the Capitals a sliver of hope.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Puckhead's Fearless Finals Prediction

Nothing like waiting until the last minute. Tonight is the big night, and I am ready for the Stanley Cup to be lifted by the most deserving team. I think there is little doubt that the two teams that are in the Finals belong. From the never say die Oilers, to veteran experience coxing through the tough games for the ‘Canes, both teams have squarely laid their claims on the Cup.

So it’s fearless prediction time.

Stanley Cup Finals

Edmonton Oilers (12-5) at Carolina Hurricanes (12-6)

Craig MacTavish was getting nervous. After dealing with Anaheim in convincing fashion, the Edmonton coach had a few days to ponder who he would play. The Oilers’ practices were attracting too much attention and local media was hounding players at home. MacTavish knew something had to be done before waiting would become complacency.

MacTavish made a few calls and the next thing the Oilers knew they were on a plane for New York, away from the fanatics, the persistant media, and the overshadowing legend and lore that was Edmonton hockey. They would simply not wait idly by, like the team that had no problem disposing of Colorado, they just wouldn’t let history repeat itself after witnessing it just weeks before. "By the time they got their game back they were down a game or two," MacTavish said. "We want to make sure that doesn't happen."

Carolina or Buffalo, it just didn’t matter. MacTavish needed to get this team battle ready, not just waiting. "We have to be diligent in our preparation so we are really game-ready for Game 1," the Edmonton skipper said.

In the end we will soon see if that was the smartest move to make, but it seems to be a satisfactory response from Oiler fans. They see what MacTavish is doing, so they are complacent themselves to see their Oilers from afar, if it means a Cup.

Teams that stay active, can easily get that grit back when starting the next series. With just a weekend off, the ‘Canes realize what is in front of them. For some on the veteran squad, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As the latest acquisitions of the Hurricanes look forward to the NHL’s greatest prize, one may look at this series as ironic. He was to be the backbone of the Edmonton Oilers and the promise of their rise to greatness once again. Nine seasons with the Edmonton squad there seemed a bad taste in the mouths from Oiler faithful, and when Doug Weight was traded to St. Louis, it seemed the perfect chance to rebuild the team.

Weight struggled with the Blues floundering in the Central Division that he soon was looking for somewhere to get his chance. He didn’t have too many more years in him. The trade was worth mentioning to Carolina, but no one thought it was a ground breaking. Yet what seemed as a desperate chance at going far in the playoffs, now became a real threat at Weight getting to lift some hardware.

He wasn’t asked to take the team on his shoulders, or to take personal responsibility over rookies to get them NHL-ready. Weight’s ice time was merely 10 minutes a game. But he made good use of his time. Weight’s penalty late in game 6 was a heavy burden for the all star center, but he lifted that burden with an important goal in game 7. Who would have thought that those 10 minutes could mean so much?

Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, and Weight’s resolve is clear. He is not the only one on this Carolina squad. "It's about the whole group of guys in here," Veteran Glen Wesley said. "It's about Ray Whitney, Doug Weight, Rod Brind'Amour, Bret Hedican, myself. It's about every single guy in here." That may be a big enough mountain in itself to overcome.

Two stories of Stanley Cup contenders. Many will write about the 1’s and 0’s of each teams strengths and weaknesses. But unlike NHL ’06 by EA Sports for Playstation 2, it’s hard for me to go by numbers alone. In the NHL, it’s about the story, the journey that teams take to make it just to play in this best of 7 series. They may have not been the favorites, but they are here. Both are ready.

My fearless prediction is simply based on feel, if not some knowledge of both teams:

Carolina Hurricanes defeat Edmonton Oilers in 7 games. Series MVP: Rod Brind’Amour

Not only should this series be physical, but also surgical in a way. Look for the Oilers to be tentative in the first game, which maybe their downfall. I like the way Carolina has been playing and if they can stick with a hot goaltender long enough will win Carolina’s first ever Cup.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Finally, Cup Final Set!

Carolina just beat their opposition into submission, and in the end Buffalo lost the war of attrition. Four starting defensemen sidelined, Veteran Jay McKee (staff infection), Teppo Numminen (hip flexor), Henrik Tallinder (broken left arm), and Dmitri Kalinin (ankle) were not dressed for this all important game.

Not to take away from the fact that Carolina played a perfect game 7, but Buffalo seemed satisfied after taking the lead to keep it and were just outplayed in the third period. I had said before that it was Buffalo’s series to lose, and that is how it played out for the most part.

Rod Brind’Amour willed this win for his team. He along with the rest of his veteran players for the ‘Canes vowed they wouldn’t be beat on a late second period banked shot from Jochen Hecht as they sat in the locker room between periods. And a tying goal by Doug Weight, and later a seemingly innocent dump that was shot over the glass by the Sabres that resulted in a penalty led Brind’Amour to score the game winner with eight minutes left in the third.

Carolina’s play was consistent, a virtue that is sometimes over looked in playoff hockey. And Buffalo just couldn’t stay healthy enough in the end. These two teams battled hard, but to hear nothing but respect for each other after this hard battled series speaks of class and sportsmanship of both.

And then there were two…

Even though I had correctly predicted how the east would shake out, Edmonton crashed every prediction I had made for the Western Conference. I will expect that this series will be tentative at first, but then will step up a few levels after the first two games.

Predictions for said Stanley Cup final will come soon, as soon as I figure out what the hell is going on in the west.

And now for something completely different…

Local news NBC4 (WRC) made no mention in their sports minute this morning that there is even a Stanley Cup final. No mention of Carolina’s win, or which teams would be playing for the Cup. After having to get up ridiculously early, they reported most of their time on the Yankee/Tigers game. Wha? And they wonder why DC isn’t a hockey city?

I am getting more and more frustrated with the local media here in DC about the lack of hockey coverage. I expect that if the Capitals ever make it to the playoffs let alone the finals, the most coverage they will have is a 2 sec. sound bite at the end of the broadcast. I am almost embarrassed for them if after one of the most thrilling game sevens in the NHL, NBC4 would rather talk about the Yankee/Detroit game (neither team by the way resides in DC).