Sunday, April 29, 2007

Team USA Wins Again

Chris Clark scores again and Team USA looks a little more formidable as they prepare for a show down with top ranked Czech Republic. Captian of the American squad, Clark has scored in each of his IIHF tournament games. USA beats Belarus 5-1.

USA's head coach Mike Sullivan said his team was playing "inspired hockey" with strong forechecks and timely scoring. USA has been able to score early and often. But the American team must be ready to play the Czechs, who have also won their previous two games by large portions.

In other news, Russia continues to dominate at home. Alex Ovechkin was the first Russian to be called for a penalty in the tournament with a high sticking call. But it did little to slow down the home team. Russia went on to defeat the Ukraine 8-1. Ovie also had an assist on a late goal.

Canada Shakey In First Game

I am sure when Canada looked at the schedule and saw Germany looking back at them, they must have thought what an easy assignment to start with. Little did they know that Germany wasn't fooling around. Canada squeezes by with a 3-2 victory.

It all started with a bad hit early for Canada where Shea Weber hit a Germany player, Yannic Seidenberg, in the head at center ice just 1:18 into the game. Weber was given a five minute major, twenty minute misconduct and thrown out (and now has been suspended for 3 games). Although Germany wasn't able to score during the major, they did tie the Canadiens early in the second before a early third period goal Jamal Mayers sealed the victory for Canada.

Is this just early tournament jitters, or is Canada in trouble here? Canada did dominate the play late in the game against Germany who was sans Olie Kolzig (who called it quits after the Winter Olympics in Turin). Perhaps too many Canadiens are distracted by Stanley Cup Playoffs to grumble too much, yet.

Caps' prospect Nick Backtrom got an assist in Sweden's win over Italy as well.

Also get your questions in for Paul Stastny, but remember to keep your questions tasteful! (That means no boxers or breifs questions) If you just want to submit and be damned the article, submit your questions with an email here,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Zubrus New Role Suits Him

Dainius Zubrus added size for the Buffalo Sabres, and he hasn't been afraid to use it. Late in the second period in game two of the Sabres/Rangers series, Zubrus didn't shy away from a hit on Jaromir Jagr. Jagr saw the blur that was Zubrus looking to collide at center ice, and just barley side step the full brunt of the hit. But contact sent the Ranger forward flipping over as he left his feet to try and avoid the hit. Zubrus didn't score a goal, or have an assist, but was granted the second star of the game for that hit.

It's clear that Zubrus is thriving off of being a role player. He doesn't need to be a scorer or a set up guy, two aspects he felt pressured to produce in Washington playing with superstar Alex Ovechkin. He just needs to use his size, his puck handling skills are just bonus for the Sabres. Dainius registered 9 hits in the second game. Consider that Ranger tough guy Sean Avery only managing three hits.

With the 800 pound gorilla that is to produce goals and assists off of Zubrus' back, the former Capital has found success on using his size. At 6'4", 224 lbs., Dainius also has the hands of a goal scorer, which was evident against the Rangers again. His ability to keep the puck deep in the zone and maintain possession gave New York fits, and led to goals and scoring opportunities.

Even though there is talk of the Capitals resigning him this summer as he will be a unrestricted free agent, Zubrus is well on his way to not returning to Washington. He may be too valuable to give up. Being a role player is a part Zubrus is playing well.

Clark Contributes, USA Off To Good Start

U.S.A. got a great start in the IIHF World Championships with a solid win 6-2 against opening round opponent Austria. Chris Clark scored in the second to make it 4-1. Brian Pothier had an assist. In related news, Alex Ovechkin had an assist and a "spectacular" goal in Russia's 9-1 rout of Denmark.

Just about every european team has advertisements on their helmets and jerseys, which begs the question, when will USA and Canada follow suit to supplement their finances? Would you want to see a Dodge sticker on the helmets of the USA players? I am all for organzations doing what they can to make money and I am a little surprised it hasn't hit the NHL yet. But then again, it could get out of hand, like soccer (where my friend still thinks that the Fly Emerites team is pretty darn good).

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Conversation With Shaone Pt.2

Shaone Morrisonn was so nice to sit down at Puckhead’s Thoughts and answer some questions for a mere blogger. The entire interview has been reposted to the first part.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Conversation With Shaone Pt.1

When the Washington Capitals took steps on rebuilding in 2004, they had to find defensive prospect that could replace a proven talent in Sergei Gonchar. There was a trade with Boston and the Capitals found their prospect. A big defenseman drafted by Boston in the 2001 draft. He was a product of the Kamloops Blazers out of Kamloop British Columbia where he accumulated 25 goals and 57 assists in 179 games played (a span of 3 years).

It was Shaone Morrisonn (pronounced like Shawn). He was drafted in the first round by Boston then traded to Washington in 2004. Shaone finished his second full season with the Capitals with 3 goals, 10 assists and a +3 in the '06 - '07 campaign. Shaone has been the go-to guy when it comes to opposing teams top lines. He would end the year with defensive partner Milan Jurcina, another prospect traded from Boston. The two found chemistry and quickly found themselves as the first defensive pairing for Glen Hanlon’s team.

Shaone was nice enough to answer my some questions. He is the first Capital to be interviewed on Puckhead’s Thoughts. So give a nice welcome to Caps’ big guy, Shaone Morrisonn and some of his thoughts.

P.H.T. I know that this was a very up and down season for the Capitals. It seems every time you guys really seemed to get it going, something always seemed to slow you guys down. All in all, what goals were you able to accomplish this year?

S.M. Personally, I have had my second full year to establish myself as a shut down defenseman and to develop more confidence in my offensive game. As a team we have had an up and down year. We have dealt with injury slumps, and trades which have enabled us to grow together and develop more experience for the future.

P.H.T. What do you think the goals are for this squad next year, what do you hope to accomplish next season?

S.M. Playoffs are in our plans for next year and, personally, I would like to have better overall numbers and become a leader on the defensive core.

P.H.T. What has it been like this season to defend some of the best players in the League? Do you get to brag to friends when you get home, "Well, I did shut down Jaromir Jagr this winter, what have you done?"

S.M. I am honored that I have had the opportunity to play against the best players in the world and I love the challenge every night.

P.H.T. What are your plans for this off-season, what do you feel you have to work on this summer?

S.M. I'm going back to Vancouver to workout, train, and work on all aspects of my game. I'll be strength training without losing any of my speed.

P.H.T. Which team do you look forward to playing against?

S.M. Playing in Montreal, there is not a better experience in hockey then the Montreal crowd. They are passionate and knowledgeable; I get goose bumps every time I play there. They have so much history and success in that organization.

P.H.T. And the team you hate to face?

S.M. I don't enjoy playing in Atlanta. We have a very heated rivalry and they play hard at home, and personally I don’t care for them much.

P.H.T. What has been your personal highlight of this year?

S.M. I would have to say playing in Vancouver was the highlight of the year it has been along time since my family and friends have had the chance to see me play live in my hometown.

(Shaone was born in Vancouver B.C. Dec. 23, 1982. The Caps lost in the shootout against Vancouver, Shaone received a 2 minute penalty for hooking in the first period and had no goals or assists in front of his hometown crowd)

P.H.T. What has been your personal lowlight of this year?

S.M. Not making the playoffs.

P.H.T. Have you had a chance to see the new jerseys for next year?

S.M. I love the red white and blue. It is fitting for us being in the nation’s capital wearing America’s colors.

P.H.T. I know you have been practicing in the new Reebok jerseys at the end of the year, what are your thoughts on them?

S.M. The state of art Reebok jersey fit tight and comfortable and is very light; it’s was a huge difference.

P.H.T. What are your thoughts on the League possibly using bigger nets for more scoring next year?

S.M. I like how the game is now. We don’t need to make anymore changes. Our game is fast, physical, and very entertaining.

P.H.T. Okay, I am going to ask you to put your general manager hat on. With due respect to management, of course, what do you think this team needs to take it to that next level?

S.M. Well I think as a core group guys having two full seasons of development under our belt, we need to be accountable and relied on more next year. We need to bring in two or three veterans and we'll be right in the mix of things next year. We also need to limit the injuries.

P.H.T. What are you personal goals for next season, what does Shaone want to accomplish when the next 82 games are played?

S.M. I would like to play in every game, be consistent every night on all tasks, continue to be a vital player, help the team reach the playoffs, and contribute more offensively while remaining a strong defensive force.

Thanks Shaone for answering my questions and being Puckhead’s Thoughts’ first interview.

Shaone will be a restricted free agent at the end of next season, and most likely be resigned as he has been a bright spot for the Capitals over the past two seasons. Depending on summer signings, Morrisonn will again be on the top defensive pair.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bring On The Cup '07 - Fearless Predictions Rd. 2

The top seeds pretty much dominated the first round. Besides San Jose and New York Rangers, home ice has meant everything for the Conference Semi-finalists. While I went for shock in my first predictions, I will be going more safe this time around.

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers @ Buffalo Sabres
The Rangers are showing some more emotion. Just look at Jaromir Jagr's face on the goals he scored. It's not the Rangers offense that has hit a stride, it's been their defense that suddenly came to life. Atlanta is no Buffalo, and that Ranger defense and goaltending will be tested. They will be facing a faster, more creative team in Buffalo. The Thrashers/Rangers series may have been a mis-match, but Buffalo will be more of a challenge.

Sabres wins in 6 games

Ottawa Senators @ New Jersey Devils
The Devils have a formula that has worked for them. It's the most boring type of hockey, but it works. Not to mention if you beat the trap, there is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL guarding the net to back up his team. Teams that fall into the trap, get bit. Just ask the Lightning. But Ottawa may have more arsenal to put the Devils to their paces. Ray Emery has a tough challenge in front of him to match the play of Martin Broduer.

Senators wins in 5 games

Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks @ Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are big and tough. Their physical play wear down teams. The way to beat it, is to score goals. Vancouver has to find its offensive touch or it will just get creamed by a very big and dangerous Duck team. Roberto Luongo will be sick of seeing Ducks in his crease. He will have to stay strong to win. "Luo" has to frustrate Duck scorers, or it will be a turkey shoot. No pun intended, I think.

Ducks wins in 6 games

San Jose Sharks @ Detroit Red Wings
The Sharks went through a battle as did the Wings. This is the series to watch. Both are big, tough and have their scoring touches. The Red Wings shooting gallery they enjoyed against the Flames is a thing of the past. They are facing a better defensive team that can also turn and burn. For the Sharks, it is important for them to stay healthy. The Red Wings are a deep team that stayed pretty healthy through their first series. The hits should be big, the goals will be highlight material, and the games will be close.

San Jose wins in 7 games

I will be cheering on the Canadien teams, for karma reasons. I would really like to see Ottawa and Vancouver do well. This round should feature some good hockey.

Red, White, Blue, Blah

Okay, so when you get news late, you get it really late. Jersey talk:
Japers Rink
3 Grumpy Caps Fans
Capitals Insider
Caps Nut
Off Wing
Ted's Take
Horse's Mouth

And so on...

Personally, I am very happy that the Capitals will be going back to the red, white and blue. But I have got a working theory about why the change in jersey designs. Coming soon, I hope.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Recap Round 1 Predictions

I would have guessed that many of this year's series would have been closer. There was only one series last year that went to a game 7 in the first round, I had predicted 4 games would see the dreaded deciding final game. So much for that thought. It was only Vancouver and Dallas that experienced a game 7 in this year's first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eastern Conference

I predicted "Atlanta wins in 5 games" - Reality: Rangers win in 4 games
Wow, um, well... that was short. The Thrashers really screwed this one up. I bought a carton of milk today and on the side of the 1/2 gallon container was Atlanta's Offense with a big "Missing" title above it. My Series MVP: Henrik Lundqvist

I predicted "Buffalo wins in 6 games" - Reality: Buffalo wins in 5 games
Close, just a game shy. The Islanders just were not as deep as the Sabres. Islanders had no problem playing physical, but couldn't match the talent. How about Dainius Zubrus turning on the playmaking in the post season? My Series MVP: Adam Mair

I predicted "Tampa Bay wins in 7 games" - Reality: New Jersey wins in 6
The Lightning just played right into the Devils hands, and New Jersey just outlasted the Lightning with the dreaded trap. Marty Broduer proves that he is the catalyst of this team, when he plays well, so do the Devils. My Series MVP: Martin Broduer

I predicted "Ottawa wins in 7 games" - Reality: Ottawa wins in 5 games
Oh happy day, the Senators finally shake the first round curse and now gain some confidence especially in their offensive game. Ray Emery also looked really good and has Ottawa fans saying, "Hasek who?" Sid "the Kid" Crosby's Whine O' the Week - a dry but fruity 2007 entitled: "I think I broke my foot in March." He thinks he broke it, people. My Series MVP: Daniel Alfredsson

Western Conference

I predicted "Minnesota wins in 7" - Reality: Anaheim wins in 5 games
The Ducks just punished the Wild. Minnesota didn't use it's speed as much as they should have. The Wild clearly had the better goaltender while their offense was sporadic and unreliable. The Ducks were just too big and too physical. Anaheim got a little too physical in some cases, that needs to calm down a little or people will start calling you Nashville. My Series MVP: Niklas Backstrom

Red Wings/Flames
I predicted "Detroit wins in 6" - Reality: Dead on, Detroit wins in 6 games
I can pretty much sum this series up by saying that this was the Red Wings vs. Miikka Kiprusoff. My Series MVP: Miikka Kiprusoff

I predicted "San Jose wins in 7" - Reality: San Jose wins in 5 games
Nashville came out too physical in their rematch of a season ago. They never recovered and San Jose called their number, again. If you think this rivalry is hot, just wait until they meet again next year. My Series MVP: Joe Thornton

I predicted "Vancouver in 5 games" - Reality: Vancouver wins in 7 games
Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco shut down two inconsistent offenses and it became a battle of wills. If you thought Turco just doesn't have it in him to win, you obviously need to watch this series again. He was spectacular posting two straight shutouts. In the end though, Vancouver just outlasted the Stars. Shame too, because Dallas looked to be the stronger team. My Series MVP: Tie Roberto Luongo, Marty Turco

I correctly guessed 5 winners and nailed only one series down to the game. Hopefully next round will be better. Anyway, here are your 1st round winners and losers.


  • Versus for doing a good job at live look-ins and staying on top of every game. They continued their good work from last season at keeping everything hockey. If this was an ESPN broadcast, we would have heard mostly NBA Playoff news between periods.

  • Miikka Kipursoff, even though the Flames lost. Kip played spectacular. Too bad the Flames couldn't put a win together on the road.

  • New York Rangers for showing up for a series, finally. NHL has to be giddy that some major markets made it out of the first round like NY, Anaheim (L.A. area) and Detroit.

  • The whole Vancouver/Dallas series. This is what playoff hockey is all about, great hockey played on both sides. The right amount of physical play, great goals and some pretty good overtime thrillers.


  • Sean Hill's drug (or rather performance enhancing) antics becoming a distraction for his Islander team at a very pivotal time.

  • Jamie McLennan's attempt to make a difference in the Wings/Flames series by giving a couple of good whacks at Johan Franzen, Karma will always bite you in the butt in the playoffs. Some good whacks though ("Chop that wood!").

  • Atlanta Thrashers quietly going into that silent night. I don't expect this team to get over it for some time. Hey Thrashers, instead of trying to knock the heads off of the Rangers, how about playing some hockey? This might have been their only shot for a while.

  • The New Jersey/Tampa Bay series. Did anyone even watch it? If so, name a pivotal point in the series other than a great save by Marty Broduer. If you can't, than you just wasted good playoff hockey watching the bore that was Devils vs. Lightning.

Predictions soon to come for Round 2, Conference Semis!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hershey Reclaims Series Lead

With a 6-5 road victory, the Hershey Bears take the lead again in their series against the Albany River Rats. Scott Barney scored twice for the Bears as did Joey Tenute, Chris Bourque, Matt Hendricks and Mike Green, all with a goal each. (Official Scoresheet)

The River Rats badly outshot the Bears 43-24, Fredric Cassivi turned away 38 of them for the win. Bourque had the game winning goal, an assist and was a +3. Not bad.

Bears look to extend their lead to two games tomorrow (Monday) at 7pm.

Eastern Conference Semis Set

With a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New Jersey Devils not only advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals but they also round out the match-ups for the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Rangers @ Sabres
Senators @ Devils

Soon the Western Conference will know their matchups with the conclusion of the Detroit/Calgary series and Vancouver/Dallas game 7.

Obviously this does little for my predictions, which now are pretty much in shambles. But that is why they are predictions and not forgone conclusions. Stay tuned for my fearless predictions for Round 2!

Don't forget Hershey Bears are tied in their series against Albany with a pivotal game 3 this evening (game time at 5pm et). After the River rats split their away games with the Bears, Hershey has to win on the road to regain home ice advantage.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Over The Hill

The pressure to be at your best game in any league can do silly things to your sense of moral correctness. While I can understand why Islander Sean Hill may have taken preformance enhancing drugs, I can not understand why a 16 year veteran would put his career in jeopardy and leave his teammates hanging when they may have needed him most.

For that he will not be forgiven easily by management or his teammates or with fans. With free agency looming, his price has drastically dropped and it will be interesting to see if any team picks up the tough defensemen. He could retire too and that might clean everyone of this incident. How likely is that?

The NHL has been able to avoid the enhancing drug land-mine field until now. While other big stars have been caught with less in other leagues, the NHL has always been able to get by with knowing that they really didn't have that problem. But if Hill is taking this, who else is? How often are stars like Alex Ovechkin and Sid "the Kid" Crosby tested?

Sean Hill will have to do one hell of a PR job to save his career.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Atlanta Gives Southeast A Bad Rap

Call it in, the Atlanta Thrashers officially are the worst team to represent the Southeast Division. Instead of playing against the Rangers, they wanted to just play rough. That may work in the regular season, but not in the playoffs.

I highly doubt this team will make the playoffs next season considering it may lose a large part of their free agents over the summer. The Thrashers too have little to deal with in the upcoming draft, so it's likely they will be making some trades over the summer for fresh blood.

Head coach Bob Hartley really screwed this team up. Instead of sticking with a goaltender, he continued to play around with it starting Kari Lehtonen then starting Johan Hedberg then going back and forth. Make a command decision and stick with it. Also Hartley was more interested it putting his goon squad on at pivotal points of the series, when it should have been his best players to try and tie things up.

Rangers mercifully end this series before Atlanta could take it home to suck in front of their home fans.

I think Thrasher forward Bobby Holik said it best:

"We weren't even close to being competitive in the playoffs. There should be no sense of accomplishment whatsoever."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Semin Gets The Shaft

As per Tarik, Alex Semin got kicked off the Russian national team for the World Championship for showing up late. Apparently, the Ferrari had engine problems (I kid 'cause I care). The coach thought it disrespectful for Semin to be late for practice when Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin shows up for workouts on time.

Don't know if that cost Semin at all in the pocket, not sure if the Russian players get paid (or if any national team pays their players for the World Championships). Looks like Semin won't get any professional workouts until the Caps return to the Kettler for late summer Caps camp.

Monday, April 16, 2007

All The Way, U-S-A!

Good news for Caps fans and USA Hockey fans. Finally, a couple of Capitals make the roster for the World Championship:

Washington Capitals right wing Chris Clark and defenseman Brian Pothier were selected by USA Hockey to represent the United States at the upcoming 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship in Moscow, Russia. - Capitals Press Release

We all know that Alex Ovechkin will be representing the Russians and a few other Capitals are sprinkled around here or there. But it is nice to see some of the home town boys get a chance to represent their country.

IIHF website is here. More on the USA Hockey roster at

Other notable entries: Forwards Erik Cole (Hurricanes), Phil Kessel (Bruins) and Paul Stastny (Avelanche), and defensemen Kieth Ballard (Coyotes) and Matt Greene (Oilers). The American team will annouce more players in the coming days.

Goaltenders Robert Esche (Flyers) and John Grahame (Hurricanes) will be between the pipes. Not the greatest, but the best are all in the playoffs right now. That maybe a good sign for the Olympics in a couple of years.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hershey Dominates The AHL

The Hershey Bears finished their season with a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms are are seeded in this season's Calder Cup. They will face Albany in the first round. I know your curious about a schedule, so:

East Division Semifinal -- Series "C" (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E4-Albany River Rats
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 18 – Albany at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 19 – Albany at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 22 – Hershey vs. Albany, 5:00 (GF)
Game 4 – Mon., Apr. 23 – Hershey vs. Albany, 7:00 (GF)
*Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 25 – Hershey vs. Albany, 7:00 (GF)
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 28 – Albany at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sun., Apr. 29 – Albany at Hershey, 5:00
*-if needed

The Bears finish the season with a 51-17-6 record and was the points leader in the AHL with 114. Alexandre Giroux finished the season with a Bears' best 42 goals and 70 points. He was also a +28. Joey Tenute was next with 39 assists and 67 points. Surprisingly Chris Bourque finished the season with 25 goals and 58 points, 4th on the team. Not bad for the little guy.

The Bears are assured home ice advantage through out the playoffs.

Other Thoughts on the Bears:
Capitals Insider
On Frozen Blog
Ted's Take

Good, So Far

The NHL Playoffs never seem to disappoint. This year is no different. Although, the schedule is a little all over the place this season it seems. If you are confused (like I am sometimes), I placed a playoff schedule on my left column on the next game and the TV schedules.

These are just a few of my thoughts on the playoff action so far.

Most heated series: San Jose/Nashville. These guys just want to kill one another. You don't win series like these, you survive them. Coaches Ron Wilson and Barry Trotz are just about at each others throats.

Most entertaining series: It's a tie at the moment between Ottawa/Pittsburgh and Vancouver/Dallas. Both of these series have been full of high drama and some pretty goals, not to mention one 4 overtime period opener. The Buffalo/Islander series is runner up.

The boring series: New Jersey/Tampa Bay. It's just painful to watch sometimes. It seems the great talent is smothered into oblivion by the dreaded trap. No highlight reel goals, no high drama (yet).

Team over achieving: New York Islanders, Buffalo is such a strong offensive talent, but the Islanders are not going quietly into the night. With Rick DiPietro back, Buffalo better start paying attention.

Team under achieving: Atlanta Thrashers. It's like a tease to have this much talent on a team and watch them play sub-par in the post season. Bob Hartley may have these guys so screwed up in the head, they don't even know who is starting in net.

Best Goaltender: Miikka Kiprusoff. The Detroit Red Wings threw everything but the kitchen sink at Kip, and he just robbed them. The Flames are lucky the have this guy in net or they would have been down 6-0 halfway through the game. Runner up Marty Turco.

Worst Goaltender: Roberto Luongo. Not that he is bad, but more like average. It's the playoffs "Luo", step it up. Kari Lehtonen is runner up.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hershey Bears Are Division Champs

Congrats to the Hershey Bears who clinched their division with a dominate win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins beating them 6-1. The Bears will have home ice advantage through out the playoffs. Hershey also clinched the regular season points title winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as AHL's Best . The Bears look set to defend their Calder Cup title.

The Bears round out the rest of their season this weekend facing Binghamton Senators Saturday night, then the Philadelphia Phantoms on Sunday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Washington Area Pick-Up (Kettler Sucks)

Hockey players in the DC area are always up for a good pick up game. After experiencing the worst pick up experience at the hands of Kettler Capitals Iceplex, I thought I would open a dialog with local players to find good places to play.

KCI has pick-up on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I have attended some of their hockey sessions before. The Iceplex actually has a good pro-shop and great facilities. But the problem I had with them is how they were treating players who want to come and play.

I went back on Tuesday to play and forked over the 15 bucks (they take credit cards, which is nice). Only five players showed. To add insult to injury, the rink didn't even supply pucks. What the hell did I pay $15 for?

You can buy a 10 or $10 pass, but then I heard they expire. That means if you play pick up once a week and for some reason you miss a session, say good-bye to your hard-earned money.

Is there any player that pays more than $10 for pick up out there? Most rinks don't charge that much. I even tried to express this to a manager, but the girls working the front desk pulled a blond moment. That day they made $75 with 5 players that paid, they could have made $100 if they had the price at $10 and ten players showed. I explained that $100 is greater than $75 (basic math, who says schooling didn't pay off). All I got were blank stares.

So open mic time. What's your best pick-up and worst pick-up? Mine are:

Best - Mt. Vernon Recreation Center, Wednesdays & Thursdays, $8 for Fairfax County residents, $10 for all others. Usually a good mix of players and can be a fast game with good talent, but also draws some show boats who never change up or never pass, etc.

Worst - Kettler Capitals Iceplex - reasons stated above.

Honorable Mention - The Gardens Icehouse, Laurel MD, Good talent and fun personalities. Some older guys, but give them respect and you might play with former Capitals.

What is yours?

Season Ticket Drop Spurs Leonsis' Comments

Capitals' owner Ted Leonsis latest promise may have been spurred by sagging season ticket renewals. When talking to a couple of season ticket holders at an event, I asked if they had picked their seats for next season. "Are you kidding me?" One responded, "why wait another 3 years for them to be good."

Leonsis promised to aggressively pursue the free agent market as the Caps were only able to match their last season performance, playing their worst hockey late in the season. I have heard of at least two to three suite owners have not renewed for the next season. If the Capitals were to lose 25% of it's season ticket holders, it stands to lose roughly 1 to 1.5 million dollars in ticket revenue, perhaps worse. Not to mention if any advertisers have not signed on for another year here, that could be really bad.

It was evident that the Caps were hurting for season ticket renewals when they ran ads with 15 games still left in the season. I asked Mr. former ticket owner why he wasn't re-upping for another season. "It's all the same man," he said with a sort of resignation in his voice, "the promotions suck, the free crap sucks, and half the prizes they gave out at the [Buffalo] game went to mostly the other team's fans." I feel you buddy.

"So what would you like to see the Caps do?" I asked. "Get some cheerleaders, get some better games at [intermission]. Look, it's a losing team, everyone knows that. Why should some average Joe want to go see losers?" He also mentioned of the full season package he bought he went to a total of 10 to 15 games. He tried to give the tickets to people he worked with, maybe 2 or 3 took him up on his tickets for a couple of the games. For the rest of the season the seats collected dust.

It's not like the Caps lack talent, they just lack NHL talent. Leonsis needs a playoff team to seal the crack in the dam, or all of his season ticket holders will bolt for the door. Even though the Caps' management have said nothing about the loss of season ticket holders, you can see the beads of sweat on the foreheads. They certainly wouldn't confirm that they have lost any to a mere blogger.

The Capitals may have 5th pick in the draft, but many experts and hockey insiders say that the pool in this year's draft is 3 to 4 years from developing into NHL talent. Frankly, the Caps don't have that kind of time.

Just about every Capital player has bolted from town, many to join their countries teams for the World Championship, but others could not wait to get out of Dodge. I am sure many had their plane tickets for Sunday morning after the last home game. And the minor leaguers were sent down in the hopes of another Hershey Championship, while others just went home.

The frustration seems to seep into those who have supported the Caps best by purchasing season tickets. But for others, the whole reason for signing on the dotted line was to see an exciting team, and of course Alex Ovechkin.

"That kid is so good," my season ticket challenged friend added. "But, it's just him. I mean Kolzig is okay, but when that Russian is the only guy, you know they're going to bear down on him, shut him down." Not much fun watching a talent get smothered. "Would you get a new package next year if they signed some good talent?" I pondered to him. He scratched his chin and looked somewhere beyond me, "Naw."

One thing is for sure, the Caps will have to win the fans back. And winning cures all ills.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bring On The Cup '07 - Fearless Predictions Pt.2

The weather is getting warmer… blah, blah, blah, Stanley Cup Playoffs, blah, blah, blah. It's the East’s turn.

The Eastern Conference has been nothing but high drama going into the post season. It took the last game of the season to decide who was in and who was out. No pressure there, huh? The Islanders slipped into the 8 spot over Toronto with a shootout win in New Jersey. The face of playoff teams has drastically changed in the East with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the New York Islanders joining the post season festivities. Missing are Cup defenders Carolina, Montreal and Philadelphia who are on the outside looking in after making the cut a season ago.

With out further ado, let’s do this thing and get to my fearless predictions for the Eastern Conference and your Conference winner:

Round 1

New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres – If the Sabres aren’t careful, they could be sitting on the corner of disappointment and misery if they don't take the Islanders seriously. Buffalo has not needed a “must-win” game after taking the Conference by storm with a 113 points and proving that they were the team to beat in the east. That could prove costly facing an Islander team that has been doing nothing but fighting to get in the playoffs tooth and nail. Can Buffalo survive the battle hardened Isles? Maybe if Chris Simon hadn’t decked Ryan Hollweg, the first round would be more favorable for the Long Island squad.

Buffalo wins in 6 games

Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils – Tampa Bay has a way of getting into the playoffs in a non-dominating way. But in the playoffs, they are a sleeper team and if they wake, they can make a lot of noise. If Vincent Lecavalier decides to turn on his offense in the post season and his partner in crime Martin St. Louis joins in, it’s not going to matter if Marty Brodeur is in net or not. Meanwhile the Devils’ heads are still spinning after their coach was fired and Lou Lamoriello jumped back behind the bench. It was a shocker for sure, but will it pay off for the Devils or be more of a distraction?

Tampa Bay wins in 7 games

New York Rangers at Atlanta Thrashers – Two teams that are hard to predict what they will do. Atlanta is in unfamiliar territory, the Rangers are only as good as Jaromir Jagr wants to be. The Rangers will need the “Brendan Shanahan effect” to do its magic if they want to best their last year’s mark. Atlanta needs some consistency from its star players, mainly Ilya Kovalchuck, and good goaltending. Atlanta doesn’t back down from a fight and the Rangers may not be tough enough to hang.

Atlanta wins in 5 games

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators – The Senators are not the team from a year ago. No Dominik Hasek, no Zdeno Chara, no Brian Potheir. That means their offense is their only defense. Good thing they matched up with the Penguins whose defense is just as blah. This series should be a high shooting affair, lots of goals and some really bad defense. It will be goaltending that is the key to whomever wins this series. Marc-Andre Fluery must be consistent for Pittsburgh or they are not going anywhere, new stadium deal or not. Sid "the Kid" Crosby will not be much of a factor, mostly here to learn than to dominate. Although, I do see a couple highlight reel goals for the Kid in this series. If nothing else this should be the most entertaining series of the playoffs, too bad we can't see these two duke it out in the Conference Finals.

Ottawa wins in 7 games

Round 2

Tampa Bay at Buffalo – Tampa Bay has a good team, but not that good. Buffalo may have had a scare against the Islanders but you can expect for them to shake that and make easy work of the Lightning. Tampa Bay just doesn’t have the firepower the Sabres have. Sad but true. And if it comes down to goaltending, I favor Ryan Miller.

Buffalo wins in 5 games

Atlanta at Ottawa – The Southeast Division certainly didn’t rack up the points this season. The Senators will gain the upper hand on the Thrashers after they reseed in the second round and Ottawa will gain home ice advantage. Good thing too, because Ottawa will need it. Atlanta will have to trust their goaltending and be the bruisers against the Senators. If they can’t out hit Ottawa, then it’s an early bow out of the playoffs. The Senators, however, are weak on defense and will have a hard time shutting down Atlanta’s talent.

Atlanta wins in 6 games

Eastern Conference Final

Atlanta at Buffalo – This is some familiar territory, the Sabres versus a Southeast Division foe. No question, it’s the Sabres year. It is their turn to take the east, and Atlanta will do little to stop them. If it were Carolina again, or Tampa Bay, or even Florida, Buffalo may have their hands full. The Thrashers goaltending from Kari Lehtonen has to be spectacular for them to have a chance against Buffalo. The Sabres’ speed will be too much. Atlanta could play them tough, but you can’t hit what you can’t catch up to. As far as goaltending goes, Miller should be pretty solid in net. It’s not even going to be close.

Buffalo goes on to the Stanley Cup Finals to face Vancouver in a quick 5 games

Stanley Cup Finals

Vancouver at Buffalo

My Finals prediction is just based on gut reaction to looking at these two matched up for a seven game series. Vancouver does have a good team, and Roberto Luongo will have given the Canucks something they never had before, a chance. But Luongo’s record against the Sabres isn’t a glowing one. That may be Buffalo’s edge. Buffalo fans will cheer, because I am predicting a Stanley Cup win favorable to the Sabres.

Buffalo wins the Cup in 7 games

If this is anything like last year, my Eastern Conference predictions will be closer to being correct than the Western Conference. After each round I like to assess how I did, then make new predictions based on what happened. Buffalo is my favorite out of the East, but I do think Anaheim could prove me wrong and that will screw my entire Western Conference predictions. Edmonton didn’t do me any favors last year, so why should any other team in the West.

I do believe there will be some upsets, but I don’t believe any 8 seeds will find themselves in the Finals like last year. The Islanders are just ready to make that kind of run, and Calgary has their own issues. For the most part, many of the top seeds learned their lessons from last season.

So enough talk already! Bring on the Stanley Cup!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bring On The Cup '07 - Fearless Predictions Pt.1

The trees are blooming and the horizon is turning greener. The Days are longer, the weather is warming up (sort of). This could only mean one thing, NHL Playoffs. Some teams are predictably in and there are a few surprises. But that is what the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about, a lot of unpredictability. This year I am starting with the Western Conference.

The west has been full of surprises, but it’s the same faces going into the playoffs as last year. Well, Colorado isn’t there, although they should have been. Calgary beat them out for that last 8 spot. The top three are the same top three everyone predicted this year, Detroit, Anaheim and Nashville are your dominates. Vancouver came out of no where on the back of one of the best goaltenders in the league. Minnesota and Dallas just had to survive to keep their playoffs hopes realized, and both did. A tough group to pick a winner, but there has to be only one.

So wonder no more, here are my fearless predictions for the Western Conference and your Conference Champion:

Round 1

Calgary Flames at Detroit Red Wings – The early exit for the Red Wings are fresh in the minds of their players. They are hoping for different fortunes with a proven winner Dominik Hasek in net to back them up. But the Wings have a history of finishing the season strong and being listless in the post season. The Flames have something to prove too, after taking a beating this season from media that had given up on the Calgary squad, they look to silence their critics. This should be less than a 1 seed versus an 8 seed and more like two power houses going at it.

Detroit wins in 6 games

Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks looked unstoppable this season early. Then mid season they looked vulnerable only to look tough to beat once more. The only question the Ducks may have is goaltending. While J.S. Giguere looks to be the #1, he still looks a little shy in net. Minnesota doesn’t have a goaltending problem. They have two goalies that look poised to be used all post season long, but are they playoff material? Plus they have their scoring power healthy and ready for a post season run with Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik back in the line up. Could that be enough for Minnesota?

Minnesota shocks and wins in 7 games

Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks – This is going to be a goaltending duel. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco are two heavyweight goaltenders that decide games. Turco may win some respect back from the Dallas faithful who seem to have turned on the all-star goaltender. The Canucks would not be in the playoffs if they had not traded for Luongo, simple as that. He has rewired this team, and now they reap the benefits of having an exceptional goaltender and a chance to make a playoff run. I will give the old Southeast Division goalie his due.

Vancouver wins in 5 games

San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators – The Predators seemed to make the perfect move picking up Peter Forsberg to fill out their offense. And while Forsberg has made some small improvement to the Nashville squad, they still seem to come up on the short end of the stick when it comes to big games. San Jose is battle hardened. Quietly, this team has been making deep runs in the playoffs commonplace. Joe Thornton looks to carry this team deep again.

San Jose wins in 7 games

Round 2

Vancouver at San Jose – Luongo is good, but the Canucks are going to need more than just good goaltending to get past the second round. Their offense needs to pick up. San Jose is going to make it interesting but Vancouver is my dark horse for the West. So there.

Vancouver wins in 6 games

Minnesota at Detroit – The Wingers will be so excited to get this far! But, at what cost? The Flames will have most certainly taken a bite out of the boys in red. And while they may be limping to face a Wild team, Minnesota is not equipped to travel far into the playoffs. If Minnesota hopes to win, it will take some major heroics.

Detroit wins in 5 games

Western Conference Final

Vancouver at Detroit – Wow! That is a pretty bold prediction, considering last year I had San Jose and Detroit sitting pretty here and it was Anaheim and Edmonton in the Western Final. This year I am sticking with my gut, which is a little bigger this year due to beer consumption, but that’s another story. Vancouver will be riding high on Luongo’s outstanding play so far. That will build their confidence. Detroit will face a tougher challenge than Minnesota. That lopsided competition may catch the Wing squad unprepared for a poised Canuck team. So, sorry Detroit fans, the playoff train ends here for you.

Vancouver goes on to the Stanley Cup finals in 7 games

Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference breakdown and my fearless prediction on who is taking home Lord Stanley’s Cup. I am so excited I could just spit!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Make That #82

Capitals 0, Sabres 2
Scoresheet - Wash Post

I tried to be as positive as I could going into this game against Buffalo. It was the inconsistent offense that once again failed the Capitals and all the Caps can talk about now is next year. Not sure what was more disheartening, a disappointed finale loss, or a Verizon Center filled to the gut with Buffalo Sabres fans.

The Washington Capitals finish with a 28-40-14 record and finish 5th in the Southeast Division for a third season in a row. They will finish 14th in the Eastern Conference for a third year in a row.

Alex Ovechkin finishes this season with 92 points (46 goals - 46 assists). He was also a -19, worse plus/minus on the Capitals this year. He led the team in shots however taking 384 of them.

Alex Semin finish second in the points for the Caps with 73 points (38 goals - 35 assists). He led the team with 17 powerplay goals. Boyd Gordon had the teams best plus/minus with a +11, Donald Brashear led all Capitals with 156 penalty minutes. Chris Clark led the team in shorthanded goals with 4.

Some Capital Quotes:
"We'll add to the team until we're like Buffalo. I really take heart in looking at some of these teams that were on the bottom. Buffalo wasn't a very good team for a long time and had a very good business model, the same with Pittsburgh, and now both of those teams are 100-point teams and have very high expectations, and I think that's where our bar is going to raised." -Ted Leonsis

Caps' fans tear your hair out no more.
"It's nice if you get a few fans in there that remind you you're not in quite as hostile an environment as you thought." -Ryan Miller on the large number of Buffalo fans at the Verizon Center.

Sure. Why not, it's not like Caps fans are showing up.
"I think it will be a good summer for us. But you don't know who signs, who will come. But I hope. [The fans] hope. Coach hopes. Team guys hope." -Alex Ovechkin

We all had hope at the start of this season too.
"I'm definitely looking forward to next year, with everything that's being said and with what we have here right now. We have the makings of being very good. We were right there up until Christmas time, which is when our lack of depth really showed. Hopefully next year when guys get hurt they won't be missed as much." -Olaf Kolzig

Or everyone just has to stay healthy.

Buffalo Sabres clinch the President's trophy with the win. Capitals just get to go away. But hey, there is always next year!

Sabres Rounds Out The Season

Remember Saturday, December 2nd? The Washington Capitals seemed they were facing a mountain of a team that came from the chilly north. That team was fast, explosive and NHL's new power house that was running high on confidence. It was a game that was a predicted a blow out by the visiting Buffalo Sabres, but instead the Caps had a different plan.

The Capitals routed the Sabres (7-4) and they did it without Dainius Zubrus (out with a leg injury), and without Jamie Heward (out with that freak facial laceration he recieved from Mike Modano's skate the game before), and Richard Zednik left late in the second period.

The season ends for the Caps in familiar surroundings at the Verizon Center, facing the Sabres one last time this season. The Caps again will be without Dainius Zubrus, Richard Zednik, and Jamie Heward.

--NHL Notes--
  • The Atlanta Thrashers clinched the Southeast Division for the first time in their clubs history. The Caps tried to help out the Lightning by giving them a chance to make a grab at the title, but in the end Carolina looked like they wanted the season to just be over and Florida plays spoiler to the Lightning's hopes. What a crazy division.

  • The New York Islanders were hoping Montreal and Toronto losses would help their playoff cause. Unfortunately for them the Canadiens and Maple Leafs play each other to finish their season. So either the Canadiens or the Maple Leafs will get two points, pulling their way closer to clinching a playoff spot. Islanders have to win their last two against Philly and New Jersey, two teams playing well of late.

  • The only matchup set in stone in the east is the Penguins versus the Senators. But who gets home ice is still in the air as the two are tied in points right now with a 103 a piece. The Pens face the Rangers and the Sens face the Bruins. With the Rangers winning and Boston playing so-so, it looks like the Pens will have to pack their road whites.

  • The season is coming to an end and still no sign of what the new Reebok jerseys are going to look like for next year. I am sure they are waiting for the summer months to create a buzz, or they could create a buzz in the playoffs. Either way I am sure it will keep us bloggers busy typing away indoors wasting those nice summer days away.

That's all I got.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Frozen Four Finally!

I am still not sure why College Hockey gets the shaft. It makes for some exciting drama, especially if you know some of the history of the great college teams. But you can't sell it. No one is rushing out to buy a North Dakota Jersey. Probably because no one sells them either.

The Caps do have a prospect playing in the final four, if for no other reason for a Hockey fan to watch. When North Dakota faces Boston College in St. Louis, Caps' fans should watch for defenseman Joe Finley, who was drafted back in '05 in the first round. The game starts at 8 pm ET on ESPN2.

The first game at 4 pm ET against Maine and Michigan State is also on ESPN2. If the NHL really wants hockey to flourish in the United States, maybe they should do more to get College hockey it's due. More southern schools should have div. 1 hockey teams. I always believed a college like Arizona or USC could recruit like crazy for hockey prospects that want to go somewhere a little warmer than Boston or Lansing Mich.

Surviving The Thrashing

Capitals 3, Thrashers 2
ScoresheetWash Post - AJC

Andy Sutton is not known for his goal scoring prowess. His offense is as good as brick. When the Thrashers looked as if they were on their way to a come back, the goal was disallowed because of a penalty (that the Thrashers were confounded by because Jiri Novotny lifted Eric Boulton’s stick into his own face) and all seemed lost with the Thrashers down 3-1.

Then Sutton streaked down the ice shorthanded, beating the Caps defenders to get a semi break away and made no mistake putting the puck top shelf on Brent Johnson. The big defender put the pressure on the Caps with that goal. Even I had to give the big guy some props for that goal.

Normally if this scenario played out, the Capitals would fold and lose the game. They did nearly hand the Thrashers the tying goal late, when Milan Jurcina and Brooks Laich sat in the penalty box, prompting a wild six on three that the Caps were somehow able to beat.

Boyd Gordon played one of his best games of late. Even if he hadn’t scored a goal, which he did to tie the game 1-1 in the second, Gordon out-worked the entire Thrashers team. He looked everywhere on the ice. He was even on the slim penalty crew at the end of the game with Shaone Morrisonn and David Steckel (called up from Hershey for this game).

All in all, the Caps played a great two and a half periods against a playoff geared team. Alex Ovechkin took this game personally with two great goals. Johnson also looked good, making some big stops late. Besides the wild second half of the third, the Caps were able to thwart the Thrashers advances like a prom queen saving herself for marriage.

One game to go! Buffalo rounds out the entire season on Saturday. Caps look to end the season with 72 points (they have tied their last year’s point total at 70).
AP Photo/Gregory Smith

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kolzig, Ovechkin Win It

Capitals 1, Panthers 0
ScoresheetWash Post

Focused. That is the word I would use to describe this performance by the Washington Capitals. Systematically the Capitals put together a well played game. Forwards backchecked, the defensemen stayed out of the box and Olie Kolzig shut ‘em down. It was Kolzig’s first shutout in nearly 3 years.

Top that with an Alex Ovechkin goal and the Capitals snaps the Florida Panthers’ hope of pulling a playoff miracle. It was cute that the Cats thought they were going to pull it off. The Caps must pull another focused game together to give the Thrashers fits.

The story could have been about how bad the ice was at the Verizon Center. The surface was very chippy at the end of the third that neither team could really gain control of the puck. I am surprised that there isn’t more effort by the Verizon crew to make the ice hard and fast. Instead it seems the ice was thick and slow.

The Capitals were much more disciplined in the third. The best way for a team that is weak on special teams is to stay out of the penalty box. That is what the Capitals did. The more disciplined this team is, the more games they will win, even if it is a one goal game.

Atlanta tonight, Buffalo to round out the week, then call it a season.
AP Photo/Linda Spillers

Monday, April 02, 2007

Seriously, Is It Baseball Season Yet?

Oh, it is.

I just finished watching the Cardinals get creamed by the New York Mets 6-1. All I could think of was, "Thank goodness baseball season is back," because I can't waste my entire life just watching the Capitals' season swirl down the commode. I can also watch the Nats do the same.

The Caps needed a day off after a rough Florida trip. Even Tarik needed some time to himself. The Capitals only have 3 games on the schedule to go and all three are not very fun tests. It's back to work today (Monday) at Kettler as the Caps look to finish the year with some kind of positive. Any kind of positive.

On deck are the Florida Panthers who look to dominate the Caps for a fifth straight game Tuesday. Then the Caps catch a bus to Atlanta where Tampa Fans will be cheering the Caps on to give the Lightning a shot at home ice advantage and lead in the Southeast. Then it's back home to try to wrap up the season with a win over Buffalo and former Cap, Dainius Zubrus.

Right now the Capitals are not playing as a team and that is hurting them. Sure there are some outstanding individual efforts, but not much chemistry. And let's face it, the Capitals' special teams are a major disappointment this season. No consistent power play, a shaky penalty kill and lack of goal support for Ovechkin and Semin. All roads pointed to a miserable season.

The off season will bring on conversations on whether there really is a light at the end of the tunnel with nothing but young players coming into the system. Where the management may go wrong is where they went right before the lockout, dumping salaries for prospects.

There has to be a point where you start retaining veterans if for no other reason than to keep good lines together. The fear is in who to keep and who to ship off. The last thing the Caps want to become is a harvest of talent for the rest of the league, growing young prospects only to lose them to free agency, sloppy trades or just not being able to afford them anymore.

A delicate balance has to be achieved. The Capitals are close to growing up from fishing for prospects and using those prospects to their full potential by putting a cohesive team around them. That includes signing the right veterans and keeping them.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


This tidbit from the St. Pete Times Forum by Washington Post beat writer Tarik El-Bashir following the Lightning/Capitals game Saturday night:
Afterward the players met for about 15 minutes behind closed doors. Although no one would divulge exactly what was said, when the meeting ended, all-star left wing Alex Ovechkin emerged from the locker room and smashed his stick repeatedly against the wall and a trash can until it broke into four pieces, according those who witnessed the episode. Ovechkin's iPod and headphones also were completely destroyed, rumpled in the hallway.

Obviously whatever was cleared in the room was too much for Ovie. Continuing...
Ovechkin and Semin, who are close friends and who were linemates on Saturday, left without speaking to the media. Asked why thought Ovechkin was so angry, Kolzig said: "I'm sure he's probably frustrated with what happened and in the meeting. And that's really all I'm going to say. It wasn't targeted at Ovie. He's obviously our guy. But it was something he didn't want to hear."

Which means it's about Semin who might have been the punching bag for the Capitals' woes of late. I do have a feeling that this is not over. If in-fighting starts in the Caps' locker room, don't look for another win for the rest of the season.

From the AP:
Hanlon held a team meeting after the game. Afterward, while talking to reporters, the sound of a stick being smashed was heard in a nearby hallway. Reporters later found one of Alex Ovechkin's sticks shattered, and an iPod broken into numerous pieces. Ovechkin was not in the locker room when it was opened to reporters. "Losing, it's just frustrating," Washington right wing Chris Clark said. "Sometimes you need to let off steam like that."

So there is more drama for your momma on the Caps squad which is the last thing they need right now. What they need desperatly is a win or two to close out the season on a high note. This was not a good road trip for Ovie or the Caps in general.