Thursday, November 30, 2006

Recap Scraps

Just a few more things of note about tonight's game, obtained from the reliable mainstream media and more reliable bloggers in the DC-area...

- Heward was cut on the cheek with Modano's skate blade...ouch. Poor Jamie, that sounds really painful and looked it too. Luckily it looks like it missed his eye, and hopefully he'll just need a few stitches before he's ready to go again.

- Halpern said after the game that it was the worst game he's played - understandable with all the emotion of the evening. I'm sure he wanted to prove himself in front of the hometown crowd, which I'm sure was not helping him loosen up. There was some nice footage of Halpy chatting with Clark and Olie after the game, which was nice to see.

- More reasons why Caps fans won't miss George Michael: I tuned in to the end of News 4 tonight and caught the end of the sports wrap-up, where I learned some things I hadn't known - for instance, did you know that Pettinger's first name is Mack? Also, he apparently scored his breakaway goal in the third period when the Caps were leading 2-1...funny, I must have missed that, being distracted by his goal in the second period.

Lastly, the Caps handed a defeat to the Dallas North Stars. Um, okay...sure.

Just par for the course, I guess.


Now That's More Like It

A win is always good, especially after losing 6 straight, but tonight's win was a much more satisfying one because of the way the Caps earned the two points. They seemed to play all 60 minutes for the first time in a long time...well, actually, 57 minutes...but who really counts those last 2 Dallas goals?

There were, as always, some defensive missteps and some turnovers along the boards (for the love of god, can the defensemen please go to some sort of clearing the puck out of the zone clinic??). There was even a moment when, dare I say it, Olie looked a little out of position. But the Caps bailed him and each other out of a last minute flurry by the Stars to pick up a very important couple of points.

- A little bit of sloppiness in general made me hold my breath a few times in each period, particularly when any defensemen had the puck in the Caps zone and were trying to clear the zone. I don't understand - does the opposing player standing in plain sight at the blue line become invisible? That's the only explanation I can find for why the Caps insist on just shooting the puck directly at the other team. You'd think by the thirtieth or fortieth time that didn't work they'd try something else...
- Not necessarily bad, because I thought overall he had a spectacular game, but Olie really did look a little off at the end of the game. Granted - the defense kind of disappeared a few times but I thought at least one of the Stars' rally attempts was a bit of a softie. All is forgiven, though, because he rocked it the rest of the game.
- Ovechkin and his sticks seemed to be an ongoing saga...actually, sticks in general were a problem for all the Caps - they were breaking sticks (Ovie twice), taking penalties for playing with said broken sticks, goalies and defensemen were dropping sticks...
- Speaking of Ovechkin, he had a bit of a rough night tonight, including losing his grip on the stick during a penalty shot. I guess he's allowed to have an off night, especially if Alex #2 and the rest of the boys pick up the slack
- The little flurry at the end of the game by Dallas made me hang my head a bit - do we have to make it interesting every night? What's wrong with a good old-fashioned shellacking?
- Jamie Heward went down in a heap late in the third period, then flew towards the bench leaving a pool of blood on the ice behind him. I didn't see what happened and didn't notice if he came back out, but hopefully he's okay.
- The Northeast Division was 75% useless tonight - we picked up a point on Tampa and distanced ourselves a bit from Florida, as they lost in a 7-round shootout and a rout respectively. Meanwhile, Montreal and Toronto? Thanks for nothing!

- Forechecking was excellent tonight, as was the general defensive positioning - everyone was taking the body and being aggressive to force a lot of turnovers by Dallas, and there were a lot of intercepted passes by the Caps out of just being in the right place.
- Offensive production again was spread out among the secondary scorers, including Semin with his second in as many games, Klepis with two assists, and Laich with an assist on a really pretty pass to Pettinger. I was especially impressed with the play of the Laich-Gordon-Zednik and the Semin-Beech-Pettinger lines - maybe Hanlon will give these two units a chance even with the return of Zubrus and Bradley.
- The Caps showed a lot of discipline tonight, taking only 4 penalties (two of which were probably not penalties, but whatever) and killing all four off successfully.

- Brashear trying to fight Sydor - that would have been an odd matchup. I guess he missed not having Barnaby their to spar with and picked the first guy who bumped into him. I guess someone's feeling feisty lately...
- After so many failed attempts to keep the puck in the zone on the power play, did everyone else see Semin reach up and make a great catch to keep the puck in? That not only kept the play going but led to his goal a few seconds later. I was thinking we should sign him up for the Nats...but then I saw him try 3 times to toss a puck over the glass during the three stars presentation and thought nah, maybe not.
- Seeing Jeffy in a Dallas sweater - *sigh*. I was watching him all through the warm-up and I'll admit, it ached a little bit. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, too, but I swear he was just standing on the ice deep in thought for a lot of the pre-game skate. I will say though that after the initial shock wore off and the boos died down, I found myself rooting against him right along with his teammates. You never notice when he's on your team, but he really is a bit of a pest out there.

And so we bid farewell to the Stars for a couple of years, and I bid farewell to Halpy - I think I'm ready to move on now. But thanks, Jeff, for the memories and the good times. We'll miss you here in DC. Best of luck!

That'll do it for me - it's another 2 point night, Caps fans!!


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Stars

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Dallas Stars
Where: Verizon Center
601 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
When: Thursday, November 30, 2006, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, WTEM-980 AM; FSNSW, WBAP-AM 820

Media Notes: (Not up at the time of this post...) (Ditto...) Shows Green the Love
Dallas Morning News (Nice and balanced, by the way)

2005-06 Season Series: Caps 0-1-0, Stars 1-0-0

2006-07 Standings: Caps 9-9-6, 24 points - 4th in division, 13th in conference; Stars 16-7-0, 32 points - 3rd in division, 5th in conference

Last Game: January 12 in Dallas, Caps lost 4-1
- Dallas would get all the offense they would need to finish off the Caps in the first ten minutes, extending the Caps' winless streak to 6 (0-4-2...gee, those numbers look familiar)
- With the loss to the Stars, Washington fell to 4-13-1 on the road. Wow.
- Defenseman Janne Niinimaa played 17 minutes in his first game as a Star - he was acquired from the New York Islanders in exchange for, wait for it...John Erskine. See how I tie everything together here on GDP?
- The Capitals' lone tally came from, who else, Alex Ovechkin. It was his 27th on the year, which incidentally was 17 more goals than anyone else on the team at that point.
- Despite adding an assist, Olie felt he didn't do enough to help his team win. I guess making saves usually comes in handy, too, but what about the Art Ross trophy??
- Nothing like a dose of the worst road team in the league to cure what ails you, huh? Coming into this game, Dallas had gone 4 games without scoring in the first period, although they had bounced back by outscoring opponents 15-3 in the other 2 frames. That streak ended with their 3 markers in the first period. On top of that, Turco had been struggling lately, being pulled in 2 consecutive starts until he faced the DC slump-busters.
- Cue ominous before falling to Dallas, Olie was 1-4-3 in his last eight games overall and was 0-8-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .868 save percentage against Dallas lifetime.

Things to Look for:
- I'm never sure how this will play out, but once again the Caps are coming into tonight's game from a day off after Tuesday's win in Tampa. Meanwhile Dallas is flying straight from Chicago after having the misfortune of running into a team with a brand new coach, losing 2-1. I would say the Caps should have energy and jump, but that never seems to work - they almost seem to play better in back-to-back games. Let's just hope they can remember that feeling...wait, what was it again? Oh, yeah - winning.
- The Stars' record is pretty scary at a glance, but it was a lot scarier earlier in the season. Dallas is 5-6 in their last 11 games, including their second straight loss to Chicago last night.
- Semin's return to the lineup Tuesday night also marked his return to the scoresheet, as he busted through a 12-game goal drought to earn his 9th goal. I really think Beech helps Semin elevate his game a bit, and the two of them seem to have good chemistry with Pettinger. I'd expect to see them continue to factor in to more scoring should they be rewarded with more ice time.
- The other 4 teams in the Southeast Division all have dates with the Northeast Division tonight, meaning for the first time in a while none of the Southeast teams are playing one another - should they all fall (ha!) and should the Caps win (HA!), they'll pick up some ground on the rest of the division. Kind of a 'duh' note, but what can I say...I'm a 'duh' kind of girl.
- Dallas has beaten the Caps in 5 straight meetings - the last time the Caps were victorious was back in March of 2001. Having said that, this has been a year that has gone against history, so I'm feeling pretty good about this streak coming to an end as well.
- Donald Brashear makes his return after a 3-game suspension - could mayhem and carnage be far behind? Uh...probably not. It's Dallas - we don't see them again until at least 2008.
- As previously noted, Jeff Halpern makes his return to the Verizon Center - seriously guys, lets make him feel welcome. Poor guy's going to get completely beaten by Ovechkin...
- Dallas currently has 4 players of Finnish descent on their roster, the most in the league; Philadelphia and Chicago tie for 2nd with 3 each. Just more useless knowledge that's all part of the package here in the Cheap Seats.

Vogel was traveling up to Hershey last night so I am taking my first stab at creating projected lineups. Take them with a grain of salt.

Also, back by (somewhat) popular demand, I give you...nicknames! Yay.

Projected Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex "Empty Netter" Ovechkin, Dainius "Write-In" Zubrus, Chris "Hannibal Lecter" Clark
28-Alex "I Was Hooked/Tripped/Held...I Swear!" Semin, Kris "Life's a" Beech, 18-Matt "the Sprawler" Pettinger
27-Ben "Slimer" Clymer, 16-Brian "K.O." Sutherby, 10-Matt "Enrique" Bradley
87-Donald "the Instigator" Brashear, 15-Boyd "Shortie" Gordon, 20-Richard "Yup, Back to the 4th Line" Zednik

2-Brian "the Capital Capital" Pothier, 26-Shaone "Olie's Sh*t List" Morrisonn
6-Jamie "Healthy Scratch" Heward, 52-Mike "Turnover" Green
4-John "I Don't Brake for Midgets" Erskine, 44-Steve "I Heart Erskine" Eminger

1-Brent "Heeere's Johnny" Johnson, 37-Olie "Bring on the Shots" Kolzig

Projected Lineup for the Stars
21-Loui "Louie, Oh No, We Gotta Go" Eriksson, 9-Mike "Vote for Me" Modano, 26-Jere "Close the Door, You're" Lehtinen "Flies"
77-Matthew "$%@#!-ing" Barnaby, 11-Jeff "Homeward Bound" Halpern, 27-Patrik Stefan
14-Stu Barnes, 15-Niklas "Larry" Hagman, 88-Eric "Fra-gi-lay" Lindros
36-Jussi "I Was Only" Jokinen, 63-Mike "Soccer Dive" Ribeiro, 20-Antti "Vegetables, I Like" Miettinen

5-Darryl "Pay the Baby" Sydor, 56-Sergei "Big Bad Mole" Zubov
3-Stephane "Terry Cloth" Robidas, 43-Phillippe "the Butcher" Boucher
42-Jon Klemm, 44-Jaroslav "A La" Modry

35-Marty "Leftover Thanksgiving" Turco, 41-Mike "I Have a Boring Name" Smith

So there you have it - I stayed up late to finish these, I want to see the love out there...

...actually I don't really care. I think they're funny and that's all that matters.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Welcome Back, Halpern

Tomorrow, as I'm sure every devoted Caps fan knows, marks the return of our hometown boy, Jeff Halpern. There is a lot of buzz among Caps bloggers, DC and Dallas media, and of course the message boards about Halpy's first steps on Verizon Center ice since leaving for Dallas - some have forgiven him for leaving; others are looking forward to booing him off the ice; and there are many who really couldn't care less.

For me, tomorrow night's game will be bittersweet.

While I am looking forward to watching Halpy play again it will be tough to see him in the opposition's jersey, harder even than the first time Bondra came back to town as a Senator. I loved Bondra, don't get me wrong. But Halpern was absolutely my favorite player during his time here. I loved his grit, his feistiness, his willingness to take on guys twice his size. I loved that he could be a pest and I loved that he could chip in the occasional pretty goal.

But my favorite time watching him play was during the three years that he shared a line with Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen. Together the three of them formed the ultimate checking line - no offense to the CBS line, but nothing holds a candle to what that combination generated on the ice. Their hard work and offensive production often saw them going up against other teams' top lines, yet they still consistently finished among the league leaders in +/- totals. They were just fun to watch - there's no other way to describe it. They could hang on to the puck for ages, wearing out the opposition before finishing them off with a nice goal or a well-timed body check. At the very least they were good for some facewashes and some "friendly" words. It was heartbreaking to watch the line break up following injuries and, later, trades - I don't think Halpern really ever played the same for the Caps after Kono and Dahlen left.

There are many people, myself included, who were surprised at Jeff's decision to sign with Dallas in the offseason. I had convinced myself that he would be buried in a Caps jersey, that his number would someday hang from the rafters at Verizon Center, and that he would hoist a Stanley Cup in front of the Caps faithful. I was upset, first at the Caps then at Halpy.

How could he leave me?

I know now, though, that his leaving was the best thing for everyone involved (and it's not just about me...that was hard to accept). He had lived out his childhood dream of playing for and becoming captain of the Capitals, but I think he knew it was time to move on. Halpern, never the fastest skater on the ice, really wasn't fitting into the new Caps team that was developing around him; there were a lot of young, gritty forwards in the Caps system who could maybe produce a little more, who maybe had faster legs or a harder shot. The Caps weren't going to pay what he was capable of getting on the open market but Dallas was; they weren't going to make a serious run for the Cup for a few years at least, and Dallas looks poised to do so very soon. And it is, after all, a business first.

The move of Halpern opened the door for a new captain in Clark and a new crop of young players who can get more ice time and more chances to step up. For their part, Dallas seems enamored of their new addition. Halpy has only two goals this season but both are game-winners - not bad - and he has been reunited with his old friend and linemate, Ulf Dahlen, now an assistant coach for the Stars.

I'm trying to sound mature and well-adjusted about this, but believe me - there is a little ache when I read about his success in his new city. I've never been good at change (so being a sports fan was a good call, right?) and despite my understanding of the hockey side of things I still wish Halpy was a Capital once more.

There is talk among some people about booing Halpern - to boo or not to boo, the eternal question with returning ex-Caps. For me it's easy; I boo Jagr and no one else, especially my Halpy, and I hope others will follow suit. He gave us 6 good years and I think he deserves nothing less than a warm welcome home. Rest assured, I'll be there tomorrow night cheering the Caps on to victory but proudly wearing my #11 Halpern jersey.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It Wasn't Pretty, But... didn't have to be - the Caps bring their longest losing skid of the season to a close with a 5-2 win over a very good Tampa Bay team, and I for one say...whew.

50 shots against, 7 penalties, only 3 points total for our top line...and they still win. Tell me exactly how that happens and where that was over the last 6 games. Make sense of this if you will; I for one am completely stumped.

But joyful, nonetheless. Apparently all the Caps needed to do differently tonight to snap the streak was, well, everything:

- Goals from secondary sources (meaning not named Ovechkin)? Check. Beech with a pretty goal after a nice passing play with Pettinger, Gordon with a beautiful shorthanded goal, again after a nice play from Pettinger, Semin with his first after a lengthy drought, and Clarkie with a darn good short side shot. Not that he doesn't produce offense, but he's usually a passer. What I loved is that every single one of them was high and from a sharp angle - no more of this hitting the goalie square in the crest crap. They didn't get a lot of shots on net (there's an understatement) but they certainly made them count.

- Strong second period? Check! Holy crap, they came into the second period with a lead and not only didn't blow it, but expanded it! I'll even go so far as to say the Caps played their best second period of the entire season tonight.

I know, not really setting the bar that high.

But it was still a great effort. They were dominated for most of the first period but they came out flying in the second, put some pressure on, and created situations where the puck was going to bounce their way. That happens to good teams. The fact that they let Tampa back in during the final frame was kind of inevitable - the Bolts got all hopped up on momentum and started tilting the ice again, but Olie was there.

- Speaking of Olie...are you kidding me? 48 saves? Many of the stellar kind, many more of the "I just saved your butts, guys" variety, all looking like a day in the park to big Zilla. I don't really know what else to say - he turned in a truly phenomenal performance tonight.

- Does this sound familiar to anyone else? "We had a good first and had a good third," Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We seem to have one period that kills us. When you miss chances in the first period, and they get a break, it's tough. We've got to find a way to capitalize." Well, it's good to know the Caps aren't alone.

- Other assorted goodies: Penalty killing was not only 100% for the first time in a looong time, but the Caps added a shorthanded goal...Ovechkin did add to his goal totals, potting an empty netter for his 16th of the season. I don't usually count empty net goals, but he did a good job of stripping the puck in the Lightning zone to score...Matt Pettinger had a heck of a game, not including his 2 assists. He and Gordon are really turning the PK into an art form...Zednik seemed to have some jump, as well, getting a few odd-man rushes and even throwing the body around a bit...Just as the goals came from unlikely or unusual players, the assists did too - Eminger, Sutherby and Erskine all added helpers to their totals, and Erskine finished +3 on the night (although I didn't think this was necessarily his best game...)

So the Caps cut off the streak at 6 games in Tampa, in classic nailbiting fashion, and in time for (if we're being honest) probably a pretty rocky stretch. Next up - Big D comes to Big DC for a rip-roarin', 6-gun shootin', hoedown throwdown Thursday night.


Dear God, What Have I Done?!?

Just an innocent mention of something I saw on Tampa's website (that incidentally makes my stomach turn just a little) and this is what happens.


I personally would stage a protest if these women were to suddenly appear at Caps games - it bugs me that I have to see them on TV when the Caps are in Carolina or Tampa, there's no way I want to watch a hockey game live with silicone right in my face. No thanks, I'd rather watch at home.

If the Caps have to stoop this low to improve attendance, something is very wrong. To all you men out there - if scantily clad women who can't string a complete sentence together are the only draw for you at a hockey game, you'd be better off saving your money, staying home, and watching Fox every night. Trust me, it's the same plastic, just a different medium...and it comes complete with a laugh track.

Not that I'm against objectification per se. Actually, if intermission entertainment consisted of the players taking off their jerseys and skating around on the ice, I would be totally fine with that. Hell, I'd even bring a few dollar bills.

That may seem like a double standard...I see it more as evening the playing field a bit.

But seriously, these "Ice Chicks" or "Ice Bimbos" or whatever they're called from city to city are an embarassment. Notice how they only appear in the very non-hockey towns down south - you won't see these Hooters rejects at the Bell Centre or in Boston. I'd like to think that we in Washington are above that sort of crap as well - aside from being offensive, I think it would be a distraction from what is, to me, a highly entertaining game all on its own. (The fact that there are scantily-clad "cheerleaders" at boring football games only serves to prove my point.)

So 6 hours until "Silicone on Ice"...maybe they'll fall. They are awfully top heavy.


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Lightning

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: St. Petersburg Times Forum
401 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
When: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Broadcast Information: NC8/CSN+, WTNT-570 AM; Sun Sports TV, 620 WDAE

Media Notes: - not up by the time of this post, but I'm sure it will be available tomorrow...
Um, I the only one bothered by this? Feature on Brian Pothier
Washington Post
St. Petersburg Times

Season Series: Caps 0-1-0, Lightning 1-0-0

Season Standings: Caps 8-9-6, 22 points - 4th in division, 13th in conference; Bolts 13-10-1, 27 points - 3rd in division, 8th in conference

Last Game: October 21 in Washington, Caps lost 6-4
- There's one thing to be said about the Capitals - they are consistent, at least in the way they lose. Once again they took a lead into the second period, and once again sloppy play, turnovers and too many penalties undid them. Tampa scored 3 unanswered goals in the second period, including 2 in 22 seconds, to hand the Caps their first home regulation loss of the season.
- Hanlon shortened the bench in the third period in an effort to add more offense and the Caps responded to a degree, outshooting the Bolts 15-10 in the final frame and adding two goals. Despite the efforts, though, Tampa also added 2 goals in the third period to make the final 6-4.
- The Caps committed a season-high 18 turnovers, including 3 each by defense partners Eminger and Clymer (can't imagine why he was moved off of D). It's unknown, at least in the official stats, whether that number has been beaten since then...but I wouldn't doubt it.
- There were some bright spots in the game - the Caps were only given 3 chances on the power play and were able to convert on 2 of them (although they did allow one shorthanded goal against). Meanwhile they killed off 6 of 7 penalties. They also dominated the Bolts in the faceoff circles, winning 42 of the 65 draws.
- Ovechkin fired only 5 shots on net the whole night and was topped by his countryman Semin, who had 7 shots and who continued his then-active point scoring streak with a goal and an assist. Mike Green also added a goal, his first of the season.

Things to Look for:
- Just to show how quickly things can happen in this league - last week the Caps were sitting in 9th place, well within reach of those coveted top 8. After a 6-game losing streak, they have dropped below .500 for the first time since October 12 and they now sit at 13th in the conference; Florida and Philadelphia are at 14th and 15th, respectively. I'm not saying the Caps need to play desperate hockey, because it's still very early and teams can get very hot very quickly. They do need to start playing with some intensity, though - Saturday's game against the Isles was a good start, now they need to build on it so they can stay within striking distance. These division matchups go a long way to improving your playoff odds, as we've seen.
- Tampa Bay's penalty killing is actually worse than the Caps - they are ranked 30th with just under 74% effectiveness when shorthanded. Incidentally, the Caps' ranking is nothing to write home about, either...they've slipped to 24th in the league, killing 80.9% of penalties.
- Caps' enforcer Donald Brashear will be serving the final game of his three-game suspension and will likely return to the lineup Thursday against Dallas. His absence was probably more sorely missed in the last few games than it will be tonight - Tampa Bay doesn't have quite the goonish image shared by Atlanta, Toronto, and to some extent the Islanders...
- Amazingly enough, the Caps shots-per-game average has gone down during their losing streak, dropping from 36.9 shots per game to 32. It's good, but forgive me if I'm not dancing in the streaks just yet - anything over 31 is still pretty bad, and only 7 other teams are above that mark.

I'm starting a little streak of my own - 2 straight gameday previews without nicknames. I apologize and promise to return to this pointless exercise as soon as my cold medicine-induced haze subsides, hopefully by Thursday's game against Dallas.

Call me crazy, but I think the Caps are actually going to take this one - the frustration level has to be hitting a high level by now and it seems like some of the line combos Hanlon was toying with over the weekend are starting to gel. Plus, Semin (hopefully) returns to the lineup refreshed and ready to go. My prediction? The Caps over the Bolts in a 3-2 nailbiter that will narrowly miss overtime, depriving Tampa of that extra point and snapping the Caps out of it just in time for a very tough home stretch.

(I have no factual basis for this - let's just say I'm going with my gut. Or the purple haze. You decide.)


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Light in a Dark Time

- I finally got around to reading the story on Ovechkin in this weekend's Washington Post Magazine. I have to say, it was really one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever read on him...and there have been many. It's very long but worth it - if you haven't read it yet, go do that first (then come back and keep reading here!)

The article has the usual information that we all know so well by now - mother was a basketball player for the Soviet Union's Olympic team, brother lives with him part of the year in Arlington, he turned down more money in Russia to play in the NHL...all things that have been said before. But this story shows more of the heart, the family connection, and the dedication that Alex has to his sport and his teammates.

His parents talk about their history and their relationship, and they are clearly still very much in love. You can sense it when they talk about their first meeting, although they don't say much, and it's obvious that they have passed on that love to their sons. One of my favorite parts of the article was a description of Ovechkin stretching out on the couch after a meal cooked by his mother, who is standing over him stroking his hair - just a very grounded and loving picture of a mother and son, like any other family.

I think that's what appeals to people about Ovie - he is just like anyone else. The money, the publicity, the fame aside, he is down-to-earth and above all else, a kid. He drives too fast in a souped-up BMW; he leaves his jock strap on the kitchen counter; he listens to loud dance music and has a girlfriend.

It really speaks volumes to how Ovie was raised, and makes me think that he will be fine under his parents' guidance - after reading the article, the removal of Don Meehan doesn't seem like a money-driven, stage parent-esque move. His parents seem to really have his best interests at heart, and both of them have experience in the world of professional sports. They'll help to keep him grounded and keep him enjoying the game and focusing only on getting better. It sounds like they were never comfortable entrusting their son to someone else and just want to make sure he'll be okay.

The fact that he's on the cover of the Post Magazine is huge - I'm hoping that his story will attract even one person who maybe wouldn't have thought of attending a hockey game but who now wants to see what all the fuss is about. It's something that has been missing in the DC-area - balanced media coverage. No one's asking the local sports media to cover more hockey than football or basketball, but an even distribution of the spotlight doesn't seem like too much to ask. The recent explosion of Caps-related blogs since the beginning of the season, mine included, just shows that there is an audience that is being ignored.

Anyways, enough ranting - this is a great read. Be sure to check out the slideshow, too, it's really well done.

And by the way, my other favorite part of the article? When Ovie compares Pittsburgh to Omsk, a city in Siberia.


- I'm sure you've noticed by now that I've added a whole list of hockey blogs to the right. Just my little way of keeping the crazy inhabitants of the hockey blogosphere connected. I'm sure I've missed some - I just refuse to believe that there are more blogs about the Columbus Blue Jackets than the Montreal Canadiens - so if yours is missing, give me a shout out and I'll be happy to add you to the list!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Caps Stranded on Island

The Caps fell to the suddenly resurgent Islanders 4-1 tonight. Despite the loss, though, I was pretty impressed with their performance overall. There were some minor glitches on defense and the offense is still sputtering, both of which I will go into in a moment. But as a whole there were some good chances and fairly solid penalty killing after allowing an early PP goal in the first. The Caps even managed to *gasp* outshoot the Isles 34-30. Amazing.

And yet the Caps have extended their losing streak to 6 total, their 3rd straight in regulation. Tonight's game was indicative of some trouble areas that have plagued the Caps throughout that stretch -
1) Defensive Glitches: I'm not sure what is going on back on the blue line, but there have been turnovers galore lately. Bad passes, lost battles along the boards, incomplete clearing attempts - all have left the goaltender facing odd-man rushes and open shooters.

which brings me to...

2) Goaltending: This hasn't been an issue through the whole winless stretch, but more in the last two games. While Olie and Johnny have both continued to come up with decent saves and held their team in games, last night against Toronto and tonight against the Islanders were probably the least comfortable I've seen either of them in net. Johnny obviously got the worst of it last night, but 11 goals over two games is not normal for this top duo.
3) Offense: For whatever reason, this once potent offense has struggled lately, scoring an anemic 9 goals in 6 games. One thing I've noticed is the reluctance or inability of all the shooters to shoot high - almost all the shots have been right on the crest or at the pads. In this age when the majority of goalies are using a butterfly style, shooting 5-hole is not going to do it. The Caps also continue to be unable to set up anyone in front of the net consistently, meaning most of their shots are coming from the outside. Like I've said a million times before, shots from the point will be stopped most of the time.
4) Specialty Teams: Both areas seem to have slipped a little - granted, the power play is still clicking somewhat, with goals in now 7 straight including tonight, but it's only been one. The Caps had so many opportunities with the extra man, including an extended 5-on-3, and only connected on one. Penalty killing is a whole other issue; it gained some momentum tonight, but it has steadily slipped from a one-time ranking of 15th to 21st in the league. If you're not killing penalties and not scoring on the power play, you are likely going to lose more games.

Still, tonight was a good solid road game and the best effort I've seen them put together in a few games. They almost played a full 60-minutes, giving up only 2 goals in the second period (is it said that I had to say only there?)

- Young'uns - I really liked the line of Laich/Beech/Fehr; I thought they had some of the Caps best chances tonight and really drove the net consistently. A few minor turnovers, but that's to be expected on such a young line. I was particularly impressed with Fehr, who had some good shots in his own right and has now had 2 pretty solid outings. Mike Green also had a great game, drawing a penalty and creating offensive drives. He just continues to develop and impresses me night after night.
- Shots on Net - The Caps outshot or were even with the Islanders in each period, the first time I've seen that in many moons. As I've mentioned, most of them were from the outside or were low, but it was a nice change from the usual. After Ovechkin's goal, they seemed to put more quality chances on net and DiPietro looked a little shaky for a few minutes before pulling it together for the win.
- Team Toughness - The Caps manhandled the Thrashers at the end of Wednesday's game and were manhandled by the Leafs last night, but I thought they found a nice balance on the island. There were some quality hits, including several by Ovie on his shadow Martinek, and a nice heavyweight bout between Erskine and Simon that looked like a draw to me.

- Spoiled Chances - Twice the Caps caught the Isles' defense flatfooted and had a 3-on-1, and twice Ovechkin shot it right at DiPietro. I'm not sure if they're just not used to having that kind of odd-man rush or what, but if Ovie doesn't pass it the advantage is lost and it goes back to a 1-on-1 situation.
- Spoiled Chances II - When the Islanders caught a steady stream of penalties at the end of the first period, I thought for sure the Caps would be able to climb even with the Islanders. It wasn't for lack of shots on net, necessarily, but quality shots were again lacking and they failed to connect. As Hanlon has said in the past, if you can't score 5-on-3 you're going to lose the game most of the time.

All in all, though, a pretty good game. I have to give the Islanders some credit, too - they played very well and it's easy to see why they're now 6-1-1 in their last 8 games. I think all of the craziness in the offseason distracted me and most of the league from the fact that they improved in a lot of areas and have suddenly snuck into first place (pending a final between NJ and San Jose) in a very tough Atlantic Division.

So 6 games, 6 losses. It's not the end of the world, but what concerns me is that looking at the schedule, tonight's game and Tuesday's game look like the ones the Caps had a chance at to break the streak. I'm not saying that the Islanders and Lightning aren't tough teams, because they obviously are, but the Caps are much more evenly matched with those teams than with their next few opponents - after Tampa the Caps have a 4-game home stretch against Dallas,
Buffalo, a suddenly alive Senators team, and the Ducks.

The Caps have 2 days off to readjust and regroup before traveling to Tampa Bay on Tuesday - if they can build on the performance from tonight and add some scoring, they may be able to leave the sunshine state with a couple of points.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Islanders

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. New York Islanders
Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

1255 Hempstead Turnpike
Uniondale, NY 11553
When: Saturday, November 25, 2006, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CW, WTNT-570 AM; FSNNY

Media Notes:

As both teams are coming off a game last night, a lot of what is in the mainstream media is going to be about those games (incidentally the Isles beat the Crosby-less Penguins have to love that.) I've decided to let you all seek them out yourselves this time if your interested.

2005-06 Season Series: Caps 1-3-0, Islanders 3-1-0

2006-07 Standings: Caps 8-7-6, 22 points – 4th in division, 12th in conference; Isles 10-7-3, 23 points – 3rd in division, 8th in conference

Last Game: April 8 in New York, Caps lost 5-0
- Nothing seemed to go right for the Caps in this lopsided shutout to the Isles, their first of the season. They managed only 20 shots on DiPietro and were given only 2 chances with the extra man, both of which they failed on.
- The Isles, on the other hand, snapped their season-high 6 game losing streak in high-powered fashion, firing 45 shots on Johnson (poor Johnny…).
- Penalty killing and penalties in general proved to be a huge issue for the Caps – they went shorthanded 8 times and gave up 4 power play goals
- The Caps were unable to shut down the trio of Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake and Robert Nilsson – the three combined for 11 points and were a factor on 4 of the 5 Islanders tallies.
- The shutout was the Islanders first one in the regular season since blanking the Caps back in March of 2004. Glad we could be of service.
- Ovechkin was held without a goal for a season-high sixth straight game, keeping him at 48 goals and 51 assists for 99 points. It also ended his 11-game point scoring streak.
- The Islanders won the season series for the first time since the 1996-97 season; during that time, the Caps were 24-3-3 against the Islanders.

Things to Look for:
- The Islanders are 5-1-1 in their last 7, while the Caps have dropped 5 straight – a slow start by the Isles and a quick start by the Caps have left the two teams separated by only one point in the overall conference standings.
- So far this season the Caps have played back-to-back games 4 times – their record in the second of back-to-back games is 1-1-2, but only once has the loss been a result of poor play. In the first of back-to-back games, however, they have only won once and they have usually been the worse of the two. Coincidence, sure, but something to think about as the Caps try to bounce back from last night’s horrific loss.
- During the Caps current losing streak, offensive output has been a big problem – through five games they’ve only scored 8 goals. That’s a big change from the production early on in the season. Semin should be back in the lineup tonight, though, so hopefully that will add a little punch to the goal-scoring.
- Sutherby returns to the team after serving out his very first NHL suspension, which should mean the reunion of the CBS line. They’ll need the grit to counteract both the offense of a re-energized Yashin and the muscle of former Caps like Chris Simon and Brendan Witt.
- Power play effectiveness is almost the same between the two teams, with the Islanders ranked 14th and the Caps ranked 15th. On the penalty kill, however, the Islanders are ranked 27th at just under 80%, while the Caps are 18th at 82.8% - I’m not sure if that includes the Caps’ performance last night, when they killed off only 2 of 5 shorthanded chances...

On that note, I'm tired and am battling some kind of cold, which wasn't helped by going to last night's dismal game - check out the message boards or any of my fellow Caps' bloggers to the right for more in-depth gameday previews, including media links and projected lineups.

Not to worry, I'll be back in full gameday preview crazy form for Tuesday's tilt in Tampa!


Friday, Bloody Friday

Oh, man.

I had this sense of impending doom going into tonight's game. Really - I knew that if the Caps pulled off a win it would be well-earned but unlikely. Still, even with my finely honed sense of intuition there was no way I could have seen this catastrophe coming.

7-1. That just hurts.

What hurts more is the way it happened - in bunches, on the power play, via odd-man rushes, after the goalie mishandled the puck, when the defense just gave up halfway down the ice...I could go on, but what's the point? They lost, they didn't show up, game over. So much for the Caps picking up any momentum from Wednesday's big finish.

I'm not sure what makes me more bitter - the fact that they lost so badly or that they lost so badly to the Maple Leafs. As a Habs fan, can I just say BLECH!

By the way, can I get some support for a movement to have the second period permanently removed from all future Caps games? They always seem to have a game in hand or to still be hanging in there after the first, and then, especially over the last few games, they've absolutely crumbled. All of a sudden the defensemen forget how to position themselves, the penalty kill sputters, the offense disappears - just like that it's 6-1 and you're out of a game 2/3 of the way through.

There's not enough space to do the bad portion of the good/bad breakdown and there was little or no good...but I can't go to bed angry. Instead, let's take a look at how it could have been worse:
- The Leafs could have scored 8 goals. That would have been worse, right?
- Raycroft wasn't given a shutout...yay, one goal!

Ummm...nope, that's all I got. It was pretty bad.

The Caps have now dropped five straight and have seemed to play progressively worse in each game over that stretch (with the exception of the Boston overtime loss last weekend). It doesn't get any easier for the Caps, either - next up is a suddenly competitive Islanders team, followed by the Lightning, the Stars and Buffalo. Not a good time to hit a rough patch - I hope Hanlon has some magic up his sleeve or this could get really ugly really quickly.


Northern Exposure, Southern Charm

- More news and notes from our neighbors to the North:

  • The Toronto Sun comes up with a game plan for the Leafs to beat the Caps tonight - shut down Ovechkin. How very...creative.
  • From the same source - the Leafs lucked out with Brashear out of the lineup and Olie respects Darcy Tucker...Olie, say it ain't so.
  • This just in, Ovechkin is becoming a more complete player. Oh, wait - that's old news.
  • The Globe and Mail heralds a new youth movement in the NHL, led by Ovechkin, Cry-Baby and Malkin.
- Just one more note about the fight-filled evening Wednesday night, and I promise I'll drop it...for now. JP posted a YouTube link over on Southeast Shootout featuring video of a brawl in last year's Toronto-Atlanta game. The Thrashers were down 6-1 in the middle of the third period when Hartley sent out Boulton and Exelby, two well-known heavies for Atlanta who did their job and initiated an all-out slugfest.

I thought that was interesting, so I did a little more digging and found the postgame recaps from the evening in question. In one of the articles, then-Leafs coach Pat Quinn (who I rarely agree with but I did this time) called out Hartley, accusing
the Thrashers of "cowardice'' and said Atlanta coach Bob Hartley "has a reputation of sending his guys out head hunting.'' Said Quinn, "That one kid Boulton took a run at one of our guys,'' Quinn said. "That's trying to hurt people and there should be no place in the game for that. This was a disgrace.''

So apparently Hartley only believes in fighting when a) his team is merely losing and b) his goons are in uniform. Notice how his tune changes when both Boulton and Exelby are on the shelf - suddenly the Caps are big bullies for deciding to fight back after having their heads taken off all game long.


- I somehow missed this somewhat snarky remark after Wednesday night from former Cap Glen Metropolit - "Getting the game-winning goal in this building, it means a lot to me...[i]t proves that Washington lost a good player."

Scoring a goal from a funny bounce off the glass, albeit darn lucky, isn't what I would necessarily call good. Incidentally Metro, who used to be one of my favorite players during his tenure here, has 4 goals and 6 assists on the season, and 3 of his 4 goals have come in the last three games. He didn't play in the NHL at all last season and during his final year with the Caps he collected 2 goals and 3 assists in 23 games.

Yup, we sure miss those big 5 points...fare thee well, Metro - see you next month!


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Leafs

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Verizon Center
601 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
When: Friday, November 24, 2006, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Information: CSN, WTNT-570 AM; Leafs TV, 640 AM

Media Notes:
Washington Post
Washington Times
Globe and Mail

2005-06 Season Series: Caps 3-1-0, Leafs 1-3-0

2006-07 Standings: Caps 8-7-6, 22 points - 4th in division, 11th in conference; Leafs 12-7-4, 28 points - 2nd in division, 4th in conference

Last Game: February 28, 2006 in Toronto, Caps won 5-3
- The Caps did a few things in this game that they haven't done in a long time. They took a lead early (0:37 into the first), maintained the lead or tie all the way through the game, and kept their opponent to under 30 shots. Ah, memories...
- Matt Pettinger proved he was the master of all specialty teams, notching a power play goal in the first to give the Caps a 2-0 lead then adding an unassisted shortie late in the second period to finish off Washington's offense for the evening.
- This was a penalty-filled affair, as each team had 9 opportunities with the extra man. A total of 23 penalties were called in the game, with 12 going against the Leafs and 11 against the Caps; Bryan McCabe picked up 14 PIMs, as he received 2 minutes for diving, a 10 minute misconduct at the end of the second period, and a slashing call with less than a minute remaining in the game.
- After the game Darcy Tucker claimed that the Caps had been looking over at the Leafs' bench and laughing (sound familiar?). Said Ovechkin, they were just "smiling and having fun in Toronto." You be the judge.
- The Caps took 4 straight hooking calls during the first and second periods; they then took 4 straight tripping calls. Odd.
- All 5 goals were scored by players with double-digit goal totals on the season: Willsie (12), Pettinger (13,14), Ovechkin (37), and Clymer (11)

Things to Look For:
- Okay - we all know that the last Caps game was quite an exciting one, and the focus of all conversations since then has been on the fighting. Let's not forget, though, that the Caps did lose that game after having a 2-goal lead. They'll need to put the fights behind them, take what they can from the experience, and funnel the energy and passion exhibited in those last two minutes into tonight's game.
- All four games between the Caps and the Leafs last season were high-scoring affairs, with the winning team scoring 4+ goals each time. The Caps took the season series 3 games to 1 and outscored them 14-8. These are two teams that have greatly improved since last season, and both are coming off of disappointing and somewhat explosive losses Wednesday night. Let's just say this should be a good one.
- The Leafs' special teams have been clicking at a tremendous rate this season, ranked 9th in power play and 8th in penalty killing. That's not to mention the fact that they've scored 2 power play goals in their last two outings. I feel like I've said this before, but the Caps have to stay out of the box. I think they're pretty tired of getting penalty minutes after Wednesday night, though...
- The Caps are currently in the middle of a season-high 4 game losing streak but have gone 2-2-2 in their last 6 to pick up 6 points. Some of the games they've stolen a point, others they've been robbed of 2. Tonight's outcome will all depend on which team decides to show up.
- With Brashear and Sutherby out of the lineup per the NHL's eternal wisdom, Eric Fehr will make his regular season debut against the Leafs. He's lighting up the AHL so far this season, but we all saw how that doesn't necessarily translate to NHL points with Fleischmann. Still, I'm looking forward to getting another look at one of our top prospects.
- Sundin remains out with an elbow injury but the Leafs have maintained a pretty steady pace (3-2-1) without their fearless leader, so I wouldn't expect that to be too much of a factor. Of course, Sundin has 51 points in 24 games against the Caps, so I can't say I'll miss him that much.

Projected Lineup for the Caps
(Vogel's saying these are strictly a guess, so you know what that
means - another round of mix-and-match forwards!)
8-Alex "Look Out, Greenie!" Ovechkin, 9-Dainius "PIM" Zubrus, 17-Chris "Hannibal Lecter" Clark
18-Matt "Shortie" Pettinger, 21-Brooks "What's Not to" Laich, 20-Richard "Streaks" Zednik
10-Matt "Drop 'Em" Bradley, 15-Boyd "PK Boy" Gordon, 27-Ben "Drop 'Em, Jr."Clymer
38-Jakub "Hot Hands" Klepis, 24-Kris "Life's a" Beech, 14-Eric "I Heart Suspensions" Fehr

2-Brian "The Capital Capital" Pothier, 26-Shaone "Shortcut" Morrisonn
6-Jamie "5 for Fighting" Heward, 52-Mike "Ouch" Green
4-John "K.O." Erskine, 44-Steve "Sutsy's Roomie" Eminger

1-Brent "Heeere's Johnny!" Johnson, 37-Olie "Leavin' the Crease" Kolzig

Projected Lineup for the Leafs
92-Jeff O’Neill, 14-Matt "Center" Stajan, 16-Darcy "Mother" Tucker
23-Alexei "Pony" Ponikarovsky, 42-Kyle "Wish You" Wellwood, 80-Nik "I'd Like to Buy a C" Antropov
33-Bates "Motel" Battaglia, 27-Michael "Woody Wood" Peca, 10-Alexander Steen
21-John "Stripper" Pohl, 18-Chad "Buzz" Kilger, 9-Alexander Suglobov

15-Tomas Kaberle, 24-Bryan "the Overrated" McCabe
25-Hal Gill, 73-Pavel Kubina
7-Colin White, 3-Wade Belak

1-Andrew Raaaaay-croft, 30-J.S. "Your 5-Hole is" Aubin

I'll be in attendance for tonight's post-Turkey Day matchup with the dreaded Leafs - should be fun!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

I Fought the Law (and Everyone Else...)

In the aftermath of yesterday's fisticuff-tinged game against Atlanta, more information has started trickling out about the incidents during and after the game. Animosity has obviously been building up between these two teams, particularly after the Caps knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs last year. This season Atlanta has beaten Washington all 4 times they have met, and each game has been more physical than the last.

So let's break it down:
- The incidents of the last 2-3 minutes of the game yesterday were kicked off after Thrasher Andy Sutton, who had up until that point been fairly quiet, laid a massive hit on rookie defenseman Mike Green. Ben Clymer came flying at Sutton in response and the two exchanged blows, becoming the first players to be sent to the locker room for the night.

  • Good for Clymer for stepping up - it was a cheap shot on Green, the second such hit from Sutton in the last two games between Atlanta and Washington. Sutton is a big guy and a very physical player and that's great, but to wait until the game is practically over then lineup a rookie without the puck is just ridiculous.
- The very next shift Hanlon put Brashear, Bradley and Erskine out on the ice, and I think we all knew what was going to happen. The puck had barely dropped before all three were going at it, with Brashear completely destroying his sparring buddy Vishnevski. Apparently Hedberg was starting to get involved, which of course brought Olie out of his crease to, shall we say, have a few words with him. Nothing evolved but Olie definitely got his point across. According to the Washington Post, some Thrashers were grabbing Clarkie's face mask and shaking it, as well...
  • It's very un-Hanlon like to do something like this - he's not one to intentionally create a fighting atmosphere, so he must have been pretty upset. I'm proud of him for really taking it to Atlanta - they don't really dress any tough guys but they play a very chippy style, with lots of borderline hits and have been a thorn in the Caps' side since last season. Regarding the facemask thing, I saw a bit of it and really was amazed - first that Clarkie was even getting involved, which speaks volumes of his commitment to the team, and second that it was taking place at all. That's just so obnoxious and uncalled for.
- Next shift, next fight - Sutherby came out for his first shift of the 3rd period and promptly dropped the gloves after taking the faceoff. Mellanby then for some reason went after Heward and the two exchanged blows before also being escorted from the ice.
  • I'm not sure what Sutherby did to get in Hanlon's doghouse - he played less than 10 minutes last night, which is odd for him - but he certainly made up for it by taking one for the team. The Mellanby-Heward thing was just bizarre...I feel like Mellanby was looking for a fight at that point and Heward just happened to be there, because Jamie is really not a fighter. Give him some credit, though - he held his own against a pretty good fighter.

- As the penalty minutes were being sorted out you could see Hanlon jawing in the direction of the Thrashers bench, and Hartley was just glaring daggers right back. It has since come to light that Hanlon flapped his arms like a chicken at Hartley and the two later had a screaming match in the halls between the locker rooms. In their postgame conferences, each coach continued to be vocal - Hanlon basically seemed to say that Atlanta had it coming and the guys were going to do what they were going to do. Hartley on the other hand seemed to think that there is no place for fighting anymore and the Thrashers are just trying to win hockey games. Whatever.

  • There's nothing really to say about this except that Hartley really bugs me and if anyone has a clip of Hanlon acting like a chicken, please post it on YouTube immediately.

- Aftermath: the long arm of the law, aka the disciplinary side of the NHL, has handed down one game suspensions to Brian Sutherby and Scott Mellanby for instigating fights, while Donald Brashear earned a 3-game suspension for his efforts and will be back November 30 against Dallas. On top of that, Hanlon received a $30,000 fine and Hartley received a $10,000 fine for their part in the kerfuffles (love that word...)

So what can we take away from all of this? Well, first of all, Hartley seems to think that just because no one on his team can fight, fighting should be outlawed. Second of all, Hanlon's a bit of a badass and I love it. Third and most importantly, this is a team that is getting tighter every game. They've been willing to stand up for one another and all out warfare like this, although not necessarily something I want to see every night, can only be good for the Caps. They'll come away with a few black eyes, a few broken noses, and the knowledge that every single guy in a Caps sweater has their back. And that can sometimes mean more than 2 points.

All I can say is, circle December 15th on your calendars - the Caps will be in Atlanta for a rematch. There may not be any fighting, but you can bet it will be an interesting game.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What's In a Name?

Just a quick update - not wanting to get my lawyers involved, I've decided to change my name from DCCapsChick to simply CapsChick, effective immediately. It'll be a difficult adjustment, but I believe there are some support groups being set up to help people cope with the change...

But seriously folks...I'll be here all week. :)

All kidding aside, I have decided to make the change out of respect for DCSportsChick - she's a great blogger and her insightful posts should be credited correctly. Plus I like getting noticed for the rare intelligent things I may accidentally spew out.

(I'm really just sucking up - I'm hoping Liz will bring me with her next time she goes to Ted's suite or the press box!! Us chicks have to stick together, right?)

So spread the word - tell your friends and family, update your blogs accordingly, alert the media...CapsChick is officially on the job!

Okay, I really am off now - Happy Turkey Day, everybody!


Thrasher Thrashing

For a breakdown of most of tonight's game, you could probably check out anyone's postgame wrap-up from the November 3 game between these two teams - they're virtually identical.

The Caps again jumped out to a lead in the first and successfully shut down the Thrashers with strong forechecking. They then extended their lead to two goals in the second until, once again, the wheels came off in the middle frame. A 3-goal explosion by Atlanta, albeit in just under 7 minutes this time, again put the Caps behind going ino the third period. A combination of poor defense, unlucky bounces and deflections gave the Thrashers all the offense they would need to finish off the Caps for a 4th straight time.

Usually after a game like tonight's I wouldn't be in the mood to write about the Caps at all, let alone find the positive side. But there were some good things, and with the way the game ended I found myself in a much better mood despite the score. Plus you know me...I'm a silver lining type of gal!

- Jakub Klepis - I know he had that horrible turnover that led to Kovalchuk's 'nail-in-the-coffin' goal, but Jakie had a really good game and factored in to both Caps tallies tonight. You can tell he's got some confidence, and he was rewarded with increased playing time as well as some shifts on the specialty teams.

- The Last 2 Minutes - All you people out there who hate fighting in hockey, turn your heads now. To everyone else - those were some good fisticuffs. Starting with Clymer taking on Sutton for a late hit on Green, it soon descended into an extended brawl. Brashear, Bradley, Erskine, Sutherby, Heward (who took on Mellanby in a battle of the geriatrics...) and even Ovie - all came out and sent a message to Atlanta that they would not go quietly. There was literally blood on the ice, which was actually kind of gross. The last two minutes of the game took about 20 in real time, but I loved seeing it. The Caps are really becoming a team and the next meeting between Washington and Atlanta should be an interesting one.

Anyone want to take bets on when this one will be up on YouTube?

- Hanlon - he's really become a master of the line shuffle over the last few games, both before the puck drops and throughout the game. He's turning it into an art form, getting exactly the matchups he wants and searching for that elusive chemistry. Give him extra credit for a blatant and wonderful disregard for whatever suspensions and/or fines may result by putting Brashear, Bradley and Erskine on the ice all at the same time.

So with that, I'd like to wish everyone a very safe and happy thanksgiving whatever your plans may be - turkey or tacos, football or French Canadian circus.

And to my Canadian Thursday!


Updates, Pilgrims and Thanksgiving Tacos

- Updated lineups per Vogel/Capitals Insider:

8-Ovechkin, 9-Zubrus, 17-Clark
18-Pettinger, 21-Laich, 20-Zednik
10-Bradley, 16-Sutherby, 27-Clymer
87-Brashear, 15-Gordon, 38-Klepis

2-Pothier, 26-Morrisonn
6-Heward, 52-Green
4-Erskine, 44-Eminger

Havelid is in Sweden at his mother's funeral, so Mark Popovic will be in the lineup for the Thrashers. Thanks to Logan for the tip, and our sympathies to Havelid on his loss...


  • Muir will have a seat, Eminger is back in - it's a little 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other, isn't it? They seem to be alternating on having good and bad nights. I'm looking for both of them to start stepping it up a bit and playing consistently well like they are capable of.
  • Laich gets a shot at more ice time and a chance to redeem himself, as he moves in to center Pettinger and Zednik. Although he's tied for last on the team (poor Benny) with -7, he's played better in his last few chances. That line looks very fast but they've also got a little edge, so they're not just flash - hopefully they can do some damage against an equally fast Atlanta team.
  • Klepis moves down to the 4th line - it's obviously going to take more than one good outing to get him on Hanlon's good side. I'd like to see him earn extra minutes again tonight.

- Holiday greetings from Canada, eh? Dan Steinberg's at it again, this time talking to the Caps about their turkey day plans. They range from the traditional to the, well...odd.

Pothier's turkey, football and passing out on the couch sounds awfully familiar, while transplanted Canadians Heward and Pettinger seem to be adopting the American traditions in their own right. And how cute is it that Bradley is going over to Pettinger's house for dinner?

Meanwhile, Eminger apparently likes Thanksgiving with a hint of Mexican, while Sutherby likes his with a side of surreal French Canadian acrobatics. Ben Clymer will be at a restaurant with his dad, and Bryan Muir is planning a big day out to Boston Market. parents always seem to pick up Thanksgiving orphans - wonder how they'd feel about a couple of hockey players (and one hockey dad) around their dinner table?


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Thrashers

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Atlanta Thrashers
Where: Verizon Center
601 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
When: Wednesday, November 22, 2006, 7:00pm

Broadcast Information: CSN, WTNT-570 AM; SportSouth

Media Notes: (You have to register to view this now, probably to keep people like me from trolling...nice try, but I got in anyways)
Washington Post
Washington Times
CBS Sportsline
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Season Series: Caps 0-1-2, Thrashers 3-0-0

Season Standings: Caps 8-6-6, 22 points - 3rd in division, 9th in conference; Thrashers 12-7-3, 27 points - T-1st in division, 5th in conference

Last Game: November 3 in Washington, Caps lost 4-3
- The Caps jumped out to an early 2-goal lead on a power play goal from Zubrus in the first period and a shorthanded goal by Clark less than 2 minutes into the second. Within the span of less than four minutes, however, the Caps watched the Thrashers turn what was a 2-goal lead into a 1-goal deficit.
- Zubrus would notch his second of the night with 6 seconds remaining in the second period, seemingly taking the momentum back from a suddenly energized Thrashers team. Unfortunately a goal by Steve Rucchin 27 seconds into the final frame would again give Atlanta the lead and would be enough to earn them two points on the night.
- The Thrashers' victory marked the first time this season that the Caps and Thrashers would finish a game in regulation. Their last two meetings, also wins by Atlanta, were won in overtime and a shootout - all three Caps losses have been by the score of 4-3.
- Until this game, the Caps had not lost in regulation when leading after the first period, going 3-0-2 in that span.
- Jon Sim continued his love affair with the back of the Capitals net, scoring the first Atlanta goal and assisting on the game winner. He now has 3 points in 3 games this season, bringing his total over the last two seasons to 11 points (9 goals, 2 assists) in 9 games against Washington. That's not counting the hat trick he scored in a wild 7-6 preseason game while with the Flyers...
- The Caps were shorthanded only 5 times during the game and killed off all 5. The bad news? 4 of the 5 penalties were hooking'd think they'd catch on after the second or third one, wouldn't you?

Things to Look For:
- Both teams are in the midst of mini slumps, with the Caps dropping their last 3 (0-2-1) and the Thrashers losing 4 straight (0-4-0). You know the old saying - something's gotta give. Okay, so it's not a great saying, but I think it's appropriate.
- Both teams should be nice and fresh for this Thanksgiving Eve matchup, having had the last three days off. The break for the Caps came after a rough stretch where they played 3 games in 4 nights. The rest was needed, as this is a Caps club in the midst of a little injury bug. All but Semin should be cleared for action tomorrow night, although I'd expect Clarkie to be sporting some kind of scary-looking face mask to protect those pearly whites...or what's left of them.
- At one point Atlanta boasted the three top scorers in the NHL in Hossa, Kovalchuk and Kozlov, but recently they have slipped to 2nd, 8th and 11th respectively. Slackers. Still, they have combined for 83 points so far, and the lowest scoring among the three of them is Kozlov with a measly 26 points. The next highest scorer on the Thrashers roster is Mellanby with 14 points. Their entire team can score, but if the Caps can keep those three off the board (and maybe Mr. Sim for good measure) they may have a chance at a 2-point night.
- Despite the fact that Atlanta is in the middle of a losing streak, the Caps need to come out firing and not let up. A desperate team is a scary team, and as I've noted in the past the Caps have historically woken up teams that were slumping...just take the last time these two teams met, when Atlanta came in having lost two straight and nipped that in the bud.
- The Thrashers have won all three meetings this season three different ways - regulation, overtime and shootout. I'd say it's time for the pendulum to swing a little bit our way. If the Caps can do the same in the next three matches (or win all three in regulation, which would be even better), it all goes back to even and the last two games will determine the outcome of the season series...
- Washington has given up 2 power play goals in each of their last 2 games; up until then they hadn't given up more than one power play goal in a game since the 4-0 loss to Edmonton back in October. The Thrashers power play has stumbled of late, connecting on only one of their last 15 chances with the extra man. Despite that fact, they remain at 8th place in the league with 19.2% effectiveness on the power play. The Caps are ranked 17th in both power play and penalty killing. In that same vein, Dainius Zubrus continues to uncharacteristically lead the Caps in penalty minutes with 25 - that's 2 more than tough guy Donald Brashear.
- Atlanta is currently experiencing a little goalie setback, as Lehtonen was pulled for the second time this year in the Thrashers' recent 5-3 loss to Dallas. Hedberg will likely be in net tonight against the Caps, but neither goalie has been particularly solid of late - they have allowed 5 goals in 3 of their last 4 losses.
- Bobby Holik is one goal away from the 300 mark. Let's make him the first player not to get a milestone against the Caps this season...
- Home ice advantage has to be exactly that - an advantage. So far this season the Caps are 3-4-1 on home ice, which means they are actually below .500 at home and above .500 on the road. Cue Twilight Zone

Projected Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex "Lucky #13" Ovechkin, 9-Dainius "Write-In" Zubrus, 17-Chris "Hannibal Lecter" Clark
28-Alex "Not Playing" Semin, 38-Jakub "Hits the Big Time" Klepis, 18-Matt "DJ Shortie" Pettinger
10-Matt "the Glue" Bradley, 16-Brian "the Guts" Sutherby, 27-Ben "the Glory" Clymer
87-Donald "Piano Man" Brashear, 15-Boyd "the PKer" Gordon, 20-Richard "Streaks" Zednik

2-Brian "the Capital Capital" Pothier, 26-Shaone "Shortcut" Morrisonn
47-Bryan "I Was Framed!" Muir, 52-Mike "Babyface" Green
4-John "Surprise!" Erskine, 6-Jamie "Old Bones" Heward

1-Brent "Heeere's Johnny" Johnson, 37-Olie "the Other Captain" Kolzig

Projected Lineup for the Thrashers
17-Ilya "Broken Stick" Kovalchuk, 20-Steve Rucchin, 19-Scott "Honeydew" Mellanby
13-Vyacheslav "Missed the Cut" Kozlov, 16-Bobby "Unibrow" Holik, 18-Marian "Puck Hog" Hossa
29-Brad Larsen, 23-Jim "A.C." Slater, 11-J.P. "V.J." Vigier
14-Jon "Buffy the Caps Slayer" Sim, 9-Glen "Metro" Metropolit, 36-Eric "Michael" Boulton

Atlanta Defensemen
25-Andy "Nice Guy" Sutton, 28-Niclas Havelid
3-Vitaly "Gesundheit" Vishnevski, 7-Greg de Vries
4-Braydon "Hair" Coburn, 34-Shane "Silent H" Hnidy

1-Johan "In Over His" Hedberg, 32-Kari "I've Got No Rhythm, I've Got No Music" Lehtonen

Stay tuned, per Vogel's notes these are bound to change - I hope so, since Semin being on the IR makes it kind of hard for him to play. They apparently will be updated after Wednesday morning’s skate - that's code for who the heck knows anymore...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giving Thanks and Crap

For those of us in the States, this Thursday will be a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving. It’s a time to think about what’s really important to us and celebrate the rights and freedoms that we too often take for granted...and of course a time to argue with family, burn food, and basically stuff ourselves silly.

So in this season of giving thanks, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m truly thankful for:

- My family and friends – we may bitch at or about each other from time to time, but it’s hard to imagine my life without the people that matter most to me. I’m lucky to have so much family close by, friends just down the metro line, and many more just a phone call or e-mail away. Come on, you thought it was going to be something hockey-related? I’m not that single-minded and shallow...

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the more important things:

- Clark-Ovechkin-Zubrus – The line that I will hereby be dubbing the “COZ they can” line has not disappointed so far this season. To date the three have combined for 57 of the club’s 159 points and 30 of their 59 goals. That’s not to mention the fact that they’re just so fun to watch when they have the puck.

- Verizon Center Opening Video – I know that most people either a) don’t love or hate this year’s intro video or b) couldn’t care less about it. I personally love it – it gets me pumped up for the game to start, and let’s face it...the boys look good in suits. I wonder how many takes they had to do before they could get through it without cracking up; Pettinger still looks like he’s going to laugh in the final version.

- Brian Pothier – I actually think that all of the offseason acquisitions have panned out pretty well; Brashear is starting to get more ice time because if his improved play and Zednik, despite injury, has put up some good numbers. Even John Erskine has been a surprisingly good pickup. But I have to say, the Pothier signing is my favorite. He’s shown his worth night after night as he consistently logs 25-30 minutes and has contributed in assists, as well. I’m still waiting for him to get that first goal as a Cap, but if he keeps shooting it’ll happen eventually. In the meantime, he has become one of our most solid defensemen and seems to mesh well with defensive partner Shaone Morrisonn.

- The “New” NHL – I know it’s not new anymore, but I didn’t have a blog last year. I really do love most of the new rules and the impact they’ve had on the NHL overall. There’s still room for improvement and from the penalty totals so far this season I’d say the players are still adjusting a little bit. That being said, offense has picked up, clutching and grabbing is down, and the game is just much faster and more entertaining. (I do still hate that puck over the glass penalty, but this is a list of what I’m thankful for – not a bitch list. I can do that anytime, and will.)

- Goaltending – Olie and Johnny have become one of the scarier goaltending duos in the league this year and have started to get more recognition because of it. Both of them have put in sparkling performance after sparkling performance, big save after big save in the face of the highest shot totals in the league. Every night it seems they keep the Caps in a game – you may not be able to win games on goaltending alone, but the team will continue to improve and do so with more confidence as a result of the fine play by these two.

This would have been better closer to Thanksgiving, I know. However tomorrow I, like the Capitals, will be in gameday mode for the Thanksgiving Eve matchup with the Thrashers.

Depending on the outcome I may have something to add to my list of things to be thankful...or something to remove...