Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gone Quiet

It's eerily quiet again today.

No big trades. No shocking events from last night to discuss and analyze. No big standings moves.


It's so quiet that to keep all you hangers-on, well, hanging on, I had to go to Canada.

Okay, not really - just the CBC, where Scott Morrison is rehashing the All-Star Game. A little late, maybe, but that's the charm of our neighbors to the North. No need to rush something like that, a week or two is fine...ah, I miss it so.

Anyways, he has some shocking ideas (eliminate the All Star Game? Really? Why, no one has ever made such a statement before, in the history of the NHL!!) but he also had a good suggestion. Scrap the whole thing and replace it with a 30-team, 2 day, 3-on-3 tournament for charity. Representatives would be voted on by the fans of each team, and with two forwards and one goalie you can bet the actual risk of injury would decline significantly. What's more, there would be some passion to it, since the winners would get a generous donation to the charity of their choice at the end.

Sound good? I think so. As much as I love the midseason craptacular that is so widely booed and hissed by many others, I think this would be a great substitute. You still get to see the best as voted by the fans for real this time - so logically we could assume that gone would be the ballot-box stuffing of certain cities who shall remain nameless. You'd still have the fun and frivolity of players from each team just enjoying themselves, and you completely remove any illusion that what is taking place even remotely resembles a real game.

I may like the All Star Game the way it is, but I know I'm in the minority - and to be fair, it doesn't take much more than a couple of NHLers on the ice to make me happy in any situation, so I'm not exactly a good mouthpiece for what should and should not be changed. And I think I could get on board with something like this. I've never seen 3-on-3 played before, and just the thought of our two Russian phenoms flying around the ice largely undefended makes me a little bit giddy.

I guess it's something to ponder...

- took their lips from Crosby's, er, derriere long enough to write a full article on little fact, there's nary a mention of the elegant Mr. Sidney! Gary must be sick today or something - that's the only way I can explain such a blatant oversight.

Anyways, it's nothing new to those of us who absorb everything in the local mainstream media about Ovie or the Caps in general, but it's a really nice article nonetheless. If nothing else, I love hearing the way his teammates and coach talk about him - it makes you think that what we see is not just a public persona but the real thing. It gives me a warm squishy feeling, too, to hear comparisons of Ovechkin with the likes of Gretzky and Messier, Lafleur and Yzerman.

And yes, I'm leaving out the 5th name mentioned on principle.

- I'm like a day behind the mainstream media - did anyone see this nice piece on Clarkie before yesterday's game? It's funny how often we overlook how impressive his accomplishments have been so far this season. The 20-goal plateau is something so many NHLers aspire to, and it seems to just be a jumping off point for Clark to set a new career high that will leave last year's mark in the dust.

- Tarik's blog entry about "Semin: International Man of Mystery" literally had me cracking up at my desk yesterday, and now my co-workers think I'm insane. Not that they didn't already kind of assume that was the case, but still. Anyways, CanWest news service picked up the story and ran with it, exposing the mischievous Mr. Semin for the English-speaking fraud he is. Or isn't. I don't know.

The truth is probably somewhere in between; I'm sure he speaks a bit and probably understands even more, but I can see how it would be easier (and more fun) to just claim ignorance. From what I've read and seen so far this season, I think it's pretty clear that Semin has a very dry sense of humor - such a change from the player with an attitude who came over back in 2003-04. What a difference a few years (and Ovechkin as your roommate) can make, right?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sens Veto Caps

At the outset of tonight's game, it looked like we were in for a repeat of the last Caps-Sens barnburner. Neither team was skating particularly well, the Caps were falling prey to some bad bounces, and they went into the locker room trailing at intermission.

Give the Caps credit for coming out and really playing a courageous game during those last 40 minutes. They were outplaying or at the very least matching Ottawa at every step and managed to cut the lead down to 1, making a strong push to tie it up right to the last second.

In the end the Caps' rally wasn't quite enough - maybe guys were squeezing the sticks a bit too hard, maybe they were trying to do too much, maybe opting for the fancy pass when a simpler play would have sufficed. Martin Gerber certainly made his case for being among the stars of tonight's game (no, you're not seeing things...Martin Gerber), playing like he did a season ago to propel the Hurricanes into the postseason and avoiding the performance that got him thrown out of the postseason.

Whatever the reason, all the effort by the Caps tonight just wasn't enough for those two points.

I know that some people will look at a game like this and say that a courageous game does not a playoff team make. That's true, but at this point I think the Caps should be happy with their performance tonight and use it as a building block, whatever may come to pass in April. They're not out of the race by any stretch, but with every loss it gets harder to climb out of the hole, and that's okay.

For me, a loss like this one is frustrating but promising. A lot of very good performances by various players tonight, especially the young guys like Schultz and Fehr, give us a glimpse of a future that may not be so far away.

And we'll leave it at that - the Caps can take a lot of things away from this game and hopefully apply it towards a little revenge on the Cats come Thursday night. Florida fell to the Penguins tonight (a Catch-22 for me; I was kind of hoping they both would lose) and remain one point behind the good guys. For now, we can sleep well knowing that through at least two periods the Caps played with that same effort we've grown accustomed to seeing - tonight it just wasn't meant to be.

In the end, I think Scarlett O'Hara said it best: "Tomorrow is another day!"


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Senators

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs Their Nation's Capitals (aka Ottawa Senators)
Where: ScotiaBank Place
1000 Palladium Dr.
Kanata, Ontario K2V 1A5
When: Tuesday, January 30, 7:30 pm

Broadcast Info: NC8, WTNT 570 AM; Sportsnet, The Team 1200

Media Notes:
D Holds the Key
Washington Post
Washington Times
Globe and Mail
Ottawa Sun
Ottawa Citizen

AHL All-Star Recap

2006-07 Series: Caps 2-1-0, Senators 1-1-1

2006-07 Standings: Caps 4th in division, 12th in conference; Senators 3rd in division, 5th in conference

Last Game: January 16 in Ottawa, Caps lost 5-2
- A game between some of the top young forwards should have yielded more exciting results, and with a score like 5-2 one might think this would be a good game to watch. But sitting through this was like watching paint dry, with goals coming in bursts to punctuate what was an otherwise snooze-inducing night.
- Shots were fairly even, both teams scored a shorthanded marker, there weren't too many penalties by either side, no one fought or made a sparkling save - zzzzzz.....
- A couple highlights from the game included Steve Eminger getting his first goal of the season, a nice shot that got through traffic to beat Emery, and Clark's shorthanded goal with 2 seconds remaining in the first. You know, back when the Caps were still in the game.

Things to Look for:
- The Caps seem to do well against teams playing in the second of back to back games, and luckily Ottawa will be coming in off a 3-1 loss in Montreal Monday night. The start of the game was delayed over an hour due to a ceremony honoring Ken Dryden, so hopefully the Sens will be nice and sleepy after flying home late. The Caps need to jump on the Sens early and get a lead to take advantage of any discrepancy in energy.
- Saturday night's decisive win against Carolina in front of an exuberant home crowd needs to get them pumped up. They played well and have all the momentum - now if only they can hang on to it.
- As always, this game is critical, but more so because it starts a set of three road games against teams with whom they're battling for playoff spots. A win to kick off the road trip will bode well for their chances in the next two, especially as they come against teams that have embarassed them recently (one of them twice).
- Semin and Ovechkin continue to light the lamp for the Caps, which is great and has been a big factor in many of their wins. However, the Caps need to cushion whatever offense can be provided by those two with some goals from secondary sources. The win against the Canes was a good start, with 4 of the goals coming from guys whose names don't end in "-in".
- Both Zednik and Bradley are possibilities for tonight's game, but knowing Hanlon's unwillingness to change something that's working it's uncertain as to where these guys will fit in to the lineup. I'd look for Zednik to get fewer minutes as they ease him back from such a bad injury, so he'll probably play on the 4th line. The question becomes, with whom...I guess we'll have to wait and see. I gave it a shot below, but left Bradley out because honestly I don't know where to put him.

Possible Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex “You Can't Eat Just One” Ovechkin, 9-Dainius “Tossed” Zubrus, 17-Chris “4 Goals, One Off the Stick" Clark
28-Alexander “Multi-Goal” Semin, 21-Brooks “Earning Big Minutes” Laich, 14-Eric "the Sniper" Fehr
15-Boyd “Killer” Gordon, 16-Brian “Not Quite the Road Warrior” Sutherby, 18-Matt “Lion King” Pettinger
20-Richard "Medicare" Zednik, 87-Donald “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Fist” Brashear, 27-Ben “I'm Only -16 Now!" Clymer

26-Shaone "Work the Body“ Morrisonn, 44-Steve "Roller Coaster Ride” Eminger
3-Lawrence “the All-Star” Nycholat, 52-Mike “Turnover” Green
6-Jamie “Scarface” Heward, 55-Jeff "the Silent Tower" Schultz

1-Brent “King of Softies” Johnson, 37-Olie “I Heart Shots” Kolzig

Possible Lineup for the Senators
15-Dany "Packing" Heatley, 22-Chris "Machine Gun" Kelly, 11-Daniel "What's It All About, Alfie" Alfredsson
19-Jason Spezzzzzzzza, 20-Antoine "We Ne-" Vermette, 44-Patrick “All Hallows” Eaves
27-Peter "Wave the White Flag" Schaeffer, 89-Mike “Newest Cap-Killer” Comrie, 25-Chris "Brashear's Punching Bag" Neil
16-Brian "I Miss Erskine" McGrattan, 37-Dean "of Students" McAmmond

6-Wade “in the Water” Redden, 14-Andrej "YoungStar" Meszaros
4-Chris "I Miss Chara" Phillips, 24-Anton "Chekhov" Volchenkov
7-Joseph "Ivan" Corvo, 42-Tom Preissing
5-Christoph "Franz" Schubert

1-Ray Emery “Board”, 29-Martin Gerber “Baby”


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday, Sunday

The horn signalling the end of the Caps-Canes game has long since sounded, the two points long ago added to the Capitals' standings. On a rainy/snowy/slushy morning such as this, thoughts of last night can only make it seem as though the sun is shining and it's 70 degrees.

What to do on a day like this? A day fit for neither woman nor beast (yet still doesn't keep the crazy man on the street outside from yelling incessantly) is a perfect day to catch up on things one has been putting off. Maybe do a little laundry...some dusting and some errands...


I have been procrastinating, though, and it's got to stop - today. Weeks ago I promised you my ultimate list of the unclassiest (is that a word?) guys in the league. Those players whose mugs could just as easily show up on a post office wall as on a hockey card; those players whose antics make us cringe, whose quotes make us wonder why they haven't been muzzled yet.

So without further ado, I give you the Hall of Shame:

- Jaromir Jagr - come on, was there ever any doubt as to who would be first on my list? Good ol' Jags, with his smug expressions and his eternally bad hair, is enemy #1 here in DC, and for good reason. We gave him a huge contract ($77 million over 7 years), a warm greeting at the airport, good buddies as linemates, and we got...nothing. Since being traded to New York in 2003, Jagr has repeatedly made it clear through the media that playing in DC was not up to his standards and that he is blissfully happy to get the hell out of here. All I can say is the feeling is more than mutual, because the Rangers got an overinflated ego and the Caps got Ovechkin.

I'll take that trade any day.

- Jeremy Roenick - once known for being one of the more entertaining players on and off the ice, JR is starting to show his age and is quickly becoming a crotchety old man who occasionally plays hockey. Always a talker and the go-to guy for hilarious and shocking quotes, JR topped himself when he basically told fans who didn't like the game to "kiss my a**"...he later claimed he was taken out of context (not sure in what context that quote would be taken the right way, but okay). His latest shenanigans include being implicated in this summer's Operation Slapshot and his decision to sulk in a restaurant rather than stay and watch a game after being scratched for medical reasons.

- Sean Avery - after flying largely under the radar in Detroit, Avery seems to have found his love of the spotlight since being traded to LA. He has developed a reputation for diving, which resulted in a $1,000 fine, and complaining about fines, which resulted in another $1,000 fine. Avery's antics also include the occasional celebratory push-ups, the mouthing off about French Canadians, the racial slurs...just an all-around nice guy. Still, LA fans claim they love this guy - he's certainly a spectacle, perfect for Tinseltown.

- Bob Hartley - since joining the Thrashers, Hartley has cultivated a reputation for basically encouraging cheap shots and turning an otherwise talented Atlanta team into a dirty one. Over the past two years the Caps have become particularly familiar with these tactics, a familiarity that came to a head back in November when Hanlon and the boys responded to the latest of Atlanta's cheap shots with round after round of fisticuffs. The infamous game sparked suspensions and fines, with both coaches screaming at each other between the benches and later in the hallway between locker rooms. Hartley, of course, feigned innocence and surprise after the game...

There are some guys who have showed moments of divadom, instances of poor sportsmanship, yet have enough potential to turn it around that I can't in good faith put them on the aforementioned list. Still, they deserve some mention as guys who could easily fall to one side or the other. Here are my choices for players who are On the Fence:

- Sidney Crosby - I know, I know, we're supposed to hate Sid the Kid on principle, and many may wonder why he wasn't listed among the classless above. In his first two seasons, Crosby has developed a reputation as a bit of a whiner, a bit of a hothead, a hell of a diver - and all at the tender age of 19. Yet it's hard not to notice that he's turned it around a bit lately. The temper tantrums are fewer, the diving penalties less prevalent...but most importantly, he's young. There are bad habits that every teenage prodigy has to overcome, and he seems to be on his way to kicking them. We'll have to keep an eye on him over the next few years to see if he's really grown out of his petulant ways. For now, though, he's a borderline case.

- Daniel Briere - up until about two months ago, I had nothing but respect for Le Petit Briere. He was small but scrappy, an obvious leader, and a big reason behind the sudden resurgence of the Buffalo Sabres. But his insistence on playing the poor innocent victim to Ovechkin's "goonery" rubbed me the wrong way, as he whined to the Buffalo media about neck pain and waking up sore every morning. His blatant spear and subsequent refusal to just drop the gloves with Ovie in the next meeting seemed to paint him as nothing more than a chicken and a crybaby. Still, I'm reluctant to call him completely classless on the basis of a few isolated incidents in an otherwise spotless career. He and Ovie seem to have worked things out, and it may be time for us Caps fans to just forgive and forget.

Not that I won't happily partake in any booing when he comes to town in April, of course...

- Alexander Semin - I'm setting aside my blatant homerism for this particular case, because it's something that has concerned me since he arrived this season. In between his spectacular stick-handling moves and jaw-dropping goals has come the occasional dive, the sporadic yapping, the slight edge to his game that result in cheap shots and bad penalties. It's a penchant that we all hope young Alex will kick sooner rather than later, and he does seem to be doing just that. His work ethic on the ice has improved, resulting in more ice time from Hanlon. And either he's becoming a better actor or he's curbed the diving impulse a bit - he's been drawing more penalties the other way just by moving his feet and trying to stay on them. One can only hope that having Ovechkin as a roommate will help smooth the rough edges and give us the superstar we all know he can be.

And there you have it! Did I leave someone off? Give someone more or less credit than they deserved? Feel free to drop a comment and tell me how you feel...and please, keep it G-rated, people. Think of the children...


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fehr Thee Well

Apparently the Caps still remember how to win...I was getting a little worried there.

Last night's game wasn't all that bad, despite the final score, and I feel like the Caps were able to take the little things they did well from last night, repackage them, throw in some new blood (hello, Fehr!) and prove that they're not quite finished yet. They forechecked well, killed penalties effectively, worked the power play, and put up 7 goals against a Carolina team that has played very well lately.

That'll do, pig...that'll do.

There were obviously some stand out performances from certain individuals, and I'll get to them in a minute. But first I think it's important to point out the work of some guys who maybe didn't show up on the scoresheet but whose efforts were key in getting those two points:

- Shaone Morrisonn - He may have been -1 on the night, but I thought Mo had one of his better games in a long time. I love what he brings defensively on a regular basis (excluding that brief period when I was calling him Gonchar...we've since made up) but tonight he was using his size with some very nice checks and throwing in some good positioning with 2 blocked shots for an all around great job.

- Donald Brashear - Brash has really stepped up the forechecking over the past couple of weeks, and although he finished the night with just over 6 minutes of ice time, everytime he was on the ice he made his presence felt. He created turnovers and won battles along the boards with just some very good physical play. Plus you have to love the big grin after Beech scored, and the headlock he gave Olie after the win. Is anyone else getting the feeling that Donald really likes it here? The feeling is mutual, I'm sure.

- Jeff Schultz - After a handful of games with the big boys, Schultzie seems to be finding his comfort level and it definitely showed tonight. He was given a good chunk of time on the penalty kill for his efforts, registering the second highest ice time shorthanded behind only Gordon. The best part? +4 with 3 blocked shots for the big guy...can't ask for a better defensive showing than that.

It's hard to pick out just a few stars tonight - a lot of guys had good games, and with a 7-spot on the board you know there was offensive presence. Ovechkin and Semin continued their one-two punch, combining for 3 goals and 2 assists as they continue to dominate in the offensive zone. Semin in particular had a great game on both ends of the ice (crazy but true) and actually had more takeaways than turnovers.

I love the scoring from the rest of the bench, though. Laich with his 3rd shortie of the season, a truly hard-working effort that puts him in the top 10 in shorthanded goals...Kris Beech cashing in after what can only be described as a jaw-dropping individual effort by Ovechkin to control the puck...Clymer picking up an assist and actually registering a +1...Clark setting a new career high in goals (that I'm guessing will continue to rise before the end of the year)...

And of course, the highlight of the evening - Eric Fehr's first career NHL goal, a beautiful slap shot that proved to be the game-winner.

(Can we keep him? Please? I promise to walk him and feed him and pick up after him...)

3 unassisted goals, 2 power play goals, a shorthanded tally, a career first, a career high, good goaltending, hard wasn't the perfect game, but it was a solid one and an exciting one. So it makes me very happy to say: it's been another 2-point night!!


Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Apparently the Caps didn't get the memo - they needed to win tonight. Must have gotten lost in the mail from their respective vacations.

It's fine. Really. We'll just take it from the top, round 2; same people, same nicknames, same goals and keys to achieve those oh-so-elusive two venue.

If they think they can pull that kind of crap in my city, they've got another think coming.

Enjoy your evening.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along?

That’s it. Apparently this has gone far enough.

The world is coming to an end, the city will explode, the beltway will...probably still be packed with cars...

All because there are *GASP* too many Caps bloggers!!! Or so sayeth your friend and mine over at
Capital Prospect.

(There's actually a pretty good discussion going on about this over at the message boards, but as I've said before, I don't get along with the message board gods. Luckily for you all, I have my own blog to wax eloquently on the wonder that is blogging...just for you, Monsieur Netsy!)

Pardon me for continuing my quest to piss off as many people as possible, but I have to very respectfully disagree with almost every single thing said by the author. For those of you who are not into clicking links, allow me to summarize: apparently too many “bored rich 20 something year old grown kids looking to get press passes to Capitals games” are invading CP’s turf, clogging up the blogosphere and spewing watered down opinions about Caps hockey.

Huh. Well, as one of the bored, rich 20-somethings, I think I should offer a rebuttal.

First of all, I’m certainly not bored. I started blogging like so many others before me and so many since for one reason - I love hockey, particularly the Capitals, and I enjoy writing about it. Whether or not people agree with me is of little consequence; in fact, I’m always amazed to see that other people even care to read what I have to say, especially given the fact that I don't even find what I say to be all that interesting.

And I have to point out, when I started this crazy thing I didn’t even know press passes were available to bloggers. I do think that it’s a wonderful way for the organization to reach out to its most rabid fans, and it’s a great way for passionate fans to look at the game from a different angle and share the experience with the readers. So whether I take advantage of the opportunity in the future is my choice but certainly not the impetus for what I do, and I doubt it drives the majority of the blogs that have popped up in recent months.

Second of all, I’m not rich – if I am, the economy is worse off than I thought it was. (Hey, does this mean I have to become a Republican??)

Third: yes, the majority of us, although definitely not all, are in our twenties. It stands to reason that not having a family to take care of tends to free up some blogging time that may not be available when you have a spouse and/or kids. It's not a bad thing to be in your twenties and passionate about something, just like it's not a bad thing to have a family and still manage to eke out a little time for yourself through blogging.

I guess I just don’t really get why something like too many bloggers would be upsetting to anyone, particularly when the general perception by the rest of the NHL is that Washington is a joke as a hockey town. The Capitals have a very small but very passionate and vocal fan base, and with technology comes the ability for that fan base to make their voices heard on a slightly larger stage. It may even work to change how other hockey fans see DC – it’s already creating a bit of a stir among the many hockey bloggers out there. If you don't like them, don't read them. Don't link to them. The beauty of the internet, just like TV and the radio, is that you have the option of just saying no.

What a concept.

There are a lot of Caps blogs out there, and I think it’s fantastic. Sure, some will probably not continue simply because of the time this kind of thing takes; others are actually not specifically Caps blogs; and still others are products, albeit highly entertaining ones, of the so-called mainstream media jumping on board with the new trend (Capitals Insider, DC Sports Bog, etc.). The rest run the gamut from the obsessive posters (like me), to the experienced and well-connected, to the newbies finding their way...Caps fans every one.

The Caps bloggers are a great group of people who love this team and this game, and I consider it a community - one that I’m proud to be a part of. We like to ramble on about the Caps, about the state of hockey, about blogging itself. We link to each other and comment on one another’s observations not to advertise for each other or to suck up to one another, but because we share a common ground. We genuinely respect each other.

Or at least I respect them...not sure if that’s reciprocal :)

There’s just no need for all the bitterness and anger in what is already such a hostile world. In the spirit of cooperation and goodwill towards all man and womankind, I think it's only fair for the author over at Capital Prospect to attend one of our viewing parties – meet us, get to know us, enjoy (or suffer through) a game with us.

I think you'll find there’s room in cyberspace for us all to coexist.


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Hurricanes

Welcome back, kids! The frivolity and fun is over - it's time to return to the forechecking and fury. We've all had a nice little break, and now the Caps get back to the task at hand...the playoffs!

: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Where: RBC Center
1400 Edwards Mill Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
When: Friday, January 25, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: NC8, WTNT 570 AM; FSN South, Y102.9 FM

Media Notes:
Washington Post
Washington Times
Raleigh News & Observer

2006-07 Season Series: Caps 2-2-0, Hurricanes 2-2-0

2006-07 Standings: Caps 20-21-7, 47 points - 4th in division, 13th in conference; Hurricanes 25-19-6, 56 points - 2nd in division, 6th in conference

Last Game: January 18 in Raleigh, Caps won 5-2
- For the first time in a long time, the Caps seemed to get the bounces in this one. It all started with the Caps coming out strong but getting on the scoreboard after a dump in by Chris Clark that was deflected into an empty net by Tanabe's stick.
- A nice power play goal off the faceoff from Alexander Semin would give the Caps a 2-0 lead, a score they would carry until early in the third when the Hurricanes woke up. A great outlet pass from none other than Brash led to another beautiful Semin goal (honestly, has he had many ugly ones??); that tally was sandwiched in between two Carolina goals from Cole and Staal to make it a one goal game going into the last minute of play.
- After pulling the goalie in an attempt to tie it up, Chris Clark scored his second of the night in a hard-working empty netter, and Ovechkin would cap off the scoring with another empty net goal 20 seconds later.
- Both teams were very disciplined, allowing for a good flow in the game as they combined for only 6 penalties all night.
- The Capitals were outshot in the last two periods, failing to register double digits in both frames and ending the night with 30. They allowed 36, continuing their bizarre success when being outshot; Olie Kolzig's record when facing 35+ shots extended to an amazing 10-1-1. So...ready, aim, fire??

Things to Look for:
- The series between these two teams so far has been like a ping pong game - they seem to catch each other on bad nights and exploit the other team's temporary ineptness. The winning team in each game so far has never scored fewer than 4 goals, the losing team never more than 2. In fact, 5 of the 8 games played last season followed the same pattern - through 12 games and two seasons, the winning team has had a margin of at least 2 goals in all but two games, back-to-back 4-3 losses to finish out the 2005-06 season series. I don't know that any of that is particularly relevant to tonight's game...I just thought it was interesting.
- There's no nice way to put it - the Caps were clearly struggling as they headed into the All Star break. In their last 16 games they are 5-11, with the longest winning streak during that period extending to just 3 games. That being said, it's easy to see a break like this or like the Olympic Break as the end of the first season and the beginning of the second.
- The good thing about getting no respect from the NHL or the fans outside of DC? Most of your guys get to rest during the All Star festivities. The boys are hopefully recovering from their assorted maladies, just in time for a vicious fight to the end. Last year we saw them fly out of the gate after the break, and I'm hoping this time around we'll see the same effect. Our two representatives are both 21 and very resilient, although I doubt I'm alone in hoping Greenie spent the rest of the week in his hotel room with his foot propped up and wrapped in ice.
- The Caps literally put us to sleep last week when they took on the Panthers, staging a game that seemed completely opposite from what had taken place two nights earlier. I think they all know how they limped onto the ice last Saturday and will be ready this time around. Lately they haven't been as good at bouncing back from a bad loss, but after the week off they'd better remember how or those golf trips they took will prove to merely be warmups for April.

Possible Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex "the Sophomore Who Did Score" Ovechkin, 9-Dainius "Zubie Doobie Doo" Zubrus, 17-Chris "the Tourist" Clark
28-Alexander "the Snubbed" Semin, 24-Kris "Hibernating" Beech, 18-Matt "Broadway" Pettinger
10-Matt "Polar Bear Club" Bradley, 16-Brian "Bad Crowd" Sutherby, 27-Ben "Being -17 is Only Good in Golf" Clymer
87-Donald "Piano Man" Brashear, 15-Boyd "The Man" Gordon, 21-Brooks "In With A Bad Crowd" Laich

3-Lawrence "Remembers His Roots" Nycholat, 44-Steve "Bad Crowd's Roomie" Eminger
2-Brian "Illness...or Injury?" Pothier, 26-Shaone "Petty's Big Apple Buddy" Morrisonn
6-Jamie "Scarface" Heward, 52-Mike "Young Star" Green

1-Brent "Stalker" Johnson, 37-Olie "Got My Picture Taken With Goofy" Kolzig

A note on the nicknames - I'm starting to think that my brain works in very odd ways and some of these may only make sense to me. That being said, please feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an e-mail if you don't get where a nickname is from. If you want to figure it out on your own a good way to do that is to check out the assorted preview articles, although this one is taken pretty heavily from Vogel's piece on how the Caps were spending their break.

If you do get them but don't find them funny or if you just don't particularly care, then this note has been a waste of your time and merely serves as proof that puttng something in italics will draw attention to it. You are still welcome to comment or e-mail - I welcome criticism.

Kind of.

Thanks for reading!

Possible Lineup for the Hurricanes
13-Ray “Former Oilers Stick Boy” Whitney, 17-Rod “Caps (and Lady) Killer” Brind’Amour, 26-Erik “Caps Killer 2: The Wrath of” Cole
11-Justin “All Star #1” Williams, 12-Eric “All Star #2” Staal, 61-Cory “Matthews” Stillman
59-Chad “In the Spring, Becomes” LaRose, 25-Eric “Southern” Belanger, 24-Scott “Jay” Walker
16-Andrew “Cheryl” Ladd, 27-Craig “the Only” Adams, 19-Trevor “The Big” Letowski

4-Dennis “Dressing on the” Seidenberg, 22-Mike “Fro Boy” Commodore
28-Andrew "Starsky and" Hutchinson, 45-David "Alley...OOPS!" Tanabe
2-Glen “Old Man” Wesley, 48-Anton “How Much Wood Could a” Babchuk "Chuck"

30-Cam “Babyface” Ward, 47-John “Golden” Grahame


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Star-Studded Night Comes to a Close

Before I get into tonight's festivities, I thought I should mention an interesting story from Le Journal de Montreal, courtesy of Eyes on the Prize...

So apparently Ovechkin, Malkin and Phaneuf went out on the town on Monday night, the night before the SuperSkills competition. Upon arriving at a swanky Dallas bar, they were recognized and invited to partake in a little shooting, not this kind or even this one (although it is Texas, so who knows), but THIS. If it's true, it certainly explains why Ovechkin was so "slow" and why Malkin looked almost human in the YoungStars game!

But on to tonight - another All Star Game is in the books, and I have to say this was probably one of the more entertaining ones in recent years, at least from where I was sitting.

Just a few thoughts...

- Ovechkin gets his first career ASG goal, and not only was it not pretty, but it comes off an assist from none other than Daniel Briere. Wow.

- Aside from Ovie's lone tally, the much hyped duo of Ovechkin and Crosby was fairly ineffective. I thought that both he and Crosby looked a little overwhelmed and outmatched for most of the game; each of them had some nice plays but also fell victim to bad turnovers, missed passes and shanked shots. Oh, well. With experience comes comfort, and these two will have plenty of experience in the coming years. You know the NHL is probably pissed off that Ovie scored instead of Crosby, though.

- Briere got the MVP and the truck, which is so big compared to him that he'll probably need a couple of phone books to sit on. He played well, though, so I'm going to avoid any further snarkiness towards Mr. least for now.

- Marty Turco mic'ed up. Priceless.

- Rick Nash was flying out there - now, he's a pretty good player in his own right, but you have to figure that playing on a line with Sakic and Havlat is going to do that for you. Still, two very pretty goals for the youngster.

- Dion Phaneuf has clearly been watching tapes of John Erskine. What a way to get your first ASG goal!

All in all, just a fun evening. I love watching the guys laughing on the bench, on the ice, after the game - old and young, they all seemed to be having a great time out there. It may not mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but it's a fun little break for both players and fans.

Friday night marks a return to reality and rivalries, though, as the Caps travel to Raleigh for the first of a home and home against the Canes. I'm holding my breath that we'll see the team that played the 'Canes right before the break, and not the team that showed up against the Panthers. Jekyll and Hyde, this team - so frustrating. Hopefully golf and Disney have done their job and gotten the boys ready for the playoff fight to come...


Celebrity in the HLOG

- If you're in the mood for some hockey and can't stand this week's festivities, or just want a little bit of fun to make that long Wednesday go by faster, be sure to stop by Hockey's Ladies of Greatness today. We are proud to present our first guest blogger, Deirdre Martin, who will be dropping in to the HLOG for a Q&A session.

(And when I say 'we', I mean Finny...I'm just along for the ride on this one!)

Martin is the bestselling author of a series of hockey-themed romance novels (come on, how do you not love that?) that center around the exploits of a fictional hockey team, the New York Blades. Her sixth book, Chasing Stanley, will be in stores next month and she has graciously agreed to field our questions on life, love, and of course, hockey.

So ladies (and gentlemen...hey, I'm not judging) be sure to stop by and check it out!

- For those of you who do like the All Star Game, how great was Greenie in the Young Stars game? Three assists, baby, not bad. Of course, the score was 9-8 so I'm guessing most guys had at least a point, but at least two of those assists were very nice passes from Mike. Now if he could only learn to stop turning over the puck so much...

That was a fun one to watch, though. I love any game where every person on the ice has a big grin on his face. And 17 goals in 30 minutes isn't too shabby as entertainment goes, either!

- As for our Ovie, it was a bit of a rough night for #8. I'm not even going to talk about how he was robbed in the fastest skater race...he certainly looked like he was flying, but what do I know. Then he's forced to go up against Luongo, the one goalie who seems to own Ovechkin - not once but twice!

I did like his new visor, though, and he seemed to be having a good time. I guess that's all that matters. Bah.

Don't worry, we'll see the real Ovechkin tomorrow night when he gets his game face on. You know he'll want to play well, and I'm going to predict that he'll get at least two goals - and throw the first body check of the night! (Would it be wrong if it was on Briere? Yeah...probably. But a girl can dream.)


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Joys of Youth

- Thankfully Green is all better and ready to go for tonight's Young Stars game:

"I'm looking forward to playing with some of the best young guys in the league,"
Green said. "It's a great honor to be here and to be a part of something I grew
up watching. I would have been very disappointed if I couldn't play."

See, this is what I love about the All-Star Game. You can tell this game has been on Mike's mind since he got hit - sure he wanted to heal so he could help the team, but it's obviously important to him that he go to Dallas. He sees it as it should be seen - an honor, a chance to represent your team and show what you can do. I love it.

And to all you detractors of the ASG who say the players hate it and would rather rest, you read that quote from Green or watch Ovechkin's press conference from Dallas and tell me they don't want to be there. Heck, even media-trained Sidney seemed a little giddy and excited to be there, breaking his stoic facade for a broad and oh-so-rare grin.

- February 4th, let's take bets on what I'm more excited about - the traditional Caps home game on Super Bowl Sunday intertwined with scoreboard checks to track the Canadiens-Penguins game? Or watching this lovely gentleman? Hmmm...tough call.

I'll have to keep you posted.


Monday, January 22, 2007

All-Star Rundown

- Mea Culpa: I said some not-nice things about USA Today recently, but I may have to take some of them back...and that’s not just because I got called out by USAT’s resident sports blogger, Beau Dure (ummm, oops). Just to clarify, I consider Beau to be one of the better bloggers around, subtle butt-kissing aside. I hope my comments were taken with the humor with which they were intended.

(Please don't hurt me, USA Today. )

Anyways, aside from the coverage of the new uniforms, they published
an interesting and balanced look at the MVP race this season and managed to not wet themselves in excitement over Sid the Kid, choosing instead to merely throw his name in there with many other candidates, including our very own Ovechkin. They also gave us a ‘B’ for our overall performance, which is higher praise than most media outlets seem to want to bestow on the Caps and better than the grades given to Toronto, Tampa and the Rangers.

Hey, I guess I really do like pretty colors and shapes...

- Then there’s the Associated Press, who are in fact
wetting themselves over Crosby. Blech. Okay, Gary, we get it – Sid the Kid good, crazy Russian kid bad. And not for nothing, but if the NHL and the NHLPA hadn’t blown it with the lockout Ovechkin probably would have been an all-star at 19 as well...

- How do you not get excited about this
All Star Game?

I know, it’s not real hockey, and I know, it’s a silly exhibition that takes time out of the busy schedules of all the players and interrupts the hockey season for no good reason and there's no hitting or passion, blah blah blah.

I love every second of it, and although I’m no fan of Briere or Crosby, I’m looking forward to seeing
that trio together on Wednesday night. Whether you love the ASG or hate it, if you’re a hockey fan you have to admit there’s something thrilling about seeing the best players in the league come together for one night. And from the sound of it, it looks like Sidney will be helping Ovie pot a couple of goals. I wonder if Alex will request a red truck for his MVP award...

- This is a couple of days old, but I thought it was worth mentioning that
TSN gave Semin a plus for his recent offensive production. It’s nice to see Sasha getting a little more respect nowadays, isn’t it? Funny what happens when all of a sudden you’ve got the third highest goal total in the league...

How I Spent My Vacation, by the Washington Capitals: some are fleeing the cold for the Sunshine State, others are leaving snow for even more snow, and a few are sticking it out right here in good ol’ DC.

  • Johnny’s not fooling anyone, he’s definitely stalking the Kolzig family...
  • I hope Laich, Sutherby and Eminger stay out of trouble in Florida; those three together could be disastrous...
  • I wonder what show Pettinger and Mo are going to see...
  • As usual, the coach said it best:
    “For the team and the whole league, you get to a point now with the pace of the game that you see every lineup starting to lose man-games [to injury] and I think for the players it’s nice for them to have a break. And maybe for the fans, too. There is so much hockey, and so much coverage and Internet and it just sort of goes all year long. I think it’s nice sometimes to take it away for a few days and you appreciate it more.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So on that note, I’ll be posting a little less frequently over the next few days - I’ll check in after the Young Stars game/Skills Competition and again after the actual game, but other than that I’ll probably be MIA until at least Thursday.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Enjoy the festivities!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gimme a Break

I'm ready for the All Star break.

Really. Bring it on.

Because if I have to sit through one more game like the one this afternoon, my head is going to explode. The score might not have been as bad as last weekend's, the shots against might not have been quite as high, but it was still ugly.

I'm not even counting the first period, which was so penalty-filled it was hard to tell how either team looked. You can't even really blame the refs - that was just a pure case of two teams being completely lazy and undisciplined. But the Caps still seemed to be playing fairly well in between trips to the sin bin, and they even capitalized on a two-man advantage to take the 1-0 lead. I doubt I was alone in thinking they would go into the locker room, get a little scolding about discipline, and come back out for a solid forty minutes to pick up two points.

I thought wrong.

They just stopped skating after that. Gone was that storied work ethic, back again were the lazy passes and bad turnovers, odd-man breaks and long stretches in the defensive zone. The second period was horrible; the third period was even worse. There were times when even I was tempted to change the channel.

I didn't, of course, but the thought crossed my mind...

There were only a few bright spots in this game - the play of Olie Kolzig, which was the only reason the game even seemed as close as the scoreboard made it seem, Matt Pettinger's diving poke check during a Florida odd-man rush, and the penalty killing (also known as Olie Kolzig). To everything else, I have only this to say: PPPPBBBBBBBBTTT.

So bring on the All Star festivities. I know everyone says you don't want to go into a break like this on a loss, but I think it's a good way to go. No need to give the Caps the idea that they've actually been playing well lately, to occupy their minds with happy thoughts over the next 5 days - let this game sink in and really fester. Let them take the many, many, many problems from this afternoon and learn from them. And we need something happy to focus on for the next couple of days. Ovechkin and Green will do us proud, and who knows - the games might actually be entertaining. Stranger things could happen, right?

After all, they couldn't be much worse than this one.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Panthers

Who: Your Nation's Capitals vs. Florida Panthers
Where: Verizon Center
601 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
When: Saturday, January 20, 1:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, WTEM 980 AM; FSN Florida, Sports Radio 560WQAM

Media Notes:
Washington Post
Washington Times
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Miami Herald

Last Game: January 13 in Florida, Caps lost 7-3
- I didn't see this game or even watch highlights (if there were any) - but I think it's safe to say that the Caps need to take everything they did that night and do the exact opposite today. From all accounts it was ugly...

Things to Look for:
- The Caps are coming off a victory to end their season's longest road trip, and they earned those two points in decisive fashion. Momentum seems to mean very little to this team except for when they're slumping, but I'd like to see them come out of the gate with the same energy we saw Thursday night.
- Chris Clark, Alex Ovechkin, Boyd Gordon, Olie Kolzig, and the rest all need to bring their A game against the Cats. It's possible they were overlooking Florida as a bottom-dweller last week, and they should know better than that. No team is easily beatable anymore, and the Panthers have gained some respectability over the last few weeks. All of a sudden the Caps are looking over their shoulder only to see Florida sitting just two points behind them.
- Olie Kolzig had what was probably one of his best games of the season Thursday night; one thing the Caps hadn't been getting from either Olie or Johnny during the little losing streak was consistent goaltending. If Olie can continue to make the big saves, it will give this team even more confidence.
- Ovechkin's point streak continued with an empty-netter against Carolina and now extends to 8 games, a career high. However, he didn't seem to have his best game against the Canes. He's allowed a bad night here and there, but I'd expect him to bounce back with a vengeance today.
- Assorted bumps and bruises may keep some of the guys out of the lineup, so it's tough to say what we're going to see on the ice for Glen Hanlon - Brash, Semin, Pothier and Green are all nursing bumps, bruises and illness and it will probably be a game-time decision for all of them.

Possible Lineups for the Caps
8-Alex "Empty-Netter" Ovechkin, 9-Dainius "Clank" Zubrus, 17-Chris "Double Empty-Netter" Clark
28-Alexander "the Fluke" Semin, 15-Boyd "Jack of All Trades" Gordon, 18-Matt "Princess" Pettinger
10-Matt "Reunited" Bradley, 16-Brian "And it Feels" Sutherby, 27-Ben "So Good" Clymer
87-Donald "Thread the Needle, Take 2" Brashear, 24-Kris "Invisible on the 4th Line" Beech, 21-Brooks "Too Good for the 4th Line" Laich

3-Lawrence "Eminger's New Bestest Friend" Nycholat, 44-Steve "At Last" Eminger
2-Brian “Mysterious Illness” Pothier, 55-Jeff “Sarge (?)" Schultz
6-Jamie “the Remote Hog” Heward, 26-Shaone “With a Rebel Yell, Mo Mo” Morrisonn

1-Brent "Wheeeere's Johnny?" Johnson, 37-Olie “the Savior” Kolzig

Possible Lineup for the Panthers
77-Chris "Potatoes Au" Gratton, 12-Olli "I Was Only" Jokinen, 15-Jozef "Tree" Stumpel
23-Martin "He's Like Magellan, He's So" Gelinas, 85-Rostislav "Ole Ole Ole" Olesz, 16-Nathan Horton "Hears a Who"
9-Stephen "Cap-Killer??" Weiss, 18-Ville "or Won't He" Peltonen, 46-David "Dunking" Booth
54-Kamil Kreps "Suzette", 13-"For" Juraj "Only" Kolnik, 11-Gregory "Mmm Mmm Good" Campbell

4-Jay "Token All-Star" Bouwmeester, 5-Bryan "Ethan" Allen
24-Ruslan Salei "Forth", 26-Mike "Mini" Van Ryn
8-Joel "Kiwi" Kwiatkowski, 7-Steve Montador

20-Ed "the Balding Eagle" Belfour, 35-Alex Auld "Lang Syne"

Ooh...I fear these may be some of the worst nicknames I've done yet. Sorry about that!


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Your Dreams Were Your Ticket Out

Welcome Back, Capitals.

It was nice to see you return to the ice tonight. Did you have a nice vacation in Ottawa? Get a little suntanned (or jellyfish stung) in Florida? Clearly winter break is now over and school is back in session, because this is the kind of game I've been waiting to see from all of you - and not a moment too soon.

Goaltending? Present and accounted for...and then some.

Lucky bounces? Mais oui. And Mr. Clark says 'Thanks a lot!'

Alex Show in full swing? Two gorgeous goals and a damn fine empty-netter - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Alexes.

Specialty teams clicking? Click

Uh, okay. I'm done now.

Clearly I'm happy, I'm punchy, I'm gettin' silly, and I owe it all to a great game by the good guys to end an otherwise depressing road trip on a high note. We'll call this a solid 45-50 minute effort, which is okay by me - hey, anytime you can keep the defending champs out of a game for all but about 10 minutes, it's a good night.

Want to know what makes this an even better night? When not one but both of your teams snap 3-game losing streaks on the road against a Southeast Division team, winning by 3. That's right, kiddies - Montreal is victorious in Atlanta against the dreaded Thrash, 4-1. Yeah, baby!

(Of course, I may be the only one celebrating that since the Caps are actually closer to catching Montreal than Atlanta at this point...details, details.)

CapsChick's Stars of the Game:
- The CBS line - They may not have had any points on the night, but they had some very good shifts. They generated scoring chances, forced turnovers and drew penalties all night long. Nice to see them clicking once again. Next step? Score some more goals.

- Alexander Semin - I don't think I really have to explain this; the guy is amazing. That second goal where he broke in on net and basically leaped over the defender's stick while shooting the I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. But that's an issue for another time.

- Chris Clark - El Capitan at it again with two more goals. Sure, the first one was a flukie one (love those flukie goals, at least when they go in our favor) but that empty-netter was all hard work by Clarkie.

- Olie Kolzig - Just being his old spectacular self once more, which is nice to see.

- Boyd Gordon - Has there been a night where I haven't basically been swooning over this guy? He's just such a great asset to the team, whether it's penalty killing or winning faceoffs or driving the net. I loved him between Pettinger and Semin tonight.

And the rest, as usual - a good team win tonight snaps the losing streak at 3 and gives the Caps their first road victory since Toronto back before Christmas. Next up? Revenge is on the menu for the last game before the All Star break as the cats meet the Caps at the Phone Booth this Saturday.

That's another 2 point night!!!


Work It, Sid

As reported by Eric at Off Wing Opinion and J.P. at Japers' Rink, the new uniforms are here!

Apparently USA Today, along with some other select media outlets, got a sneak preview of the new uniforms before their official unveiling at next week's All-Star Game. Sid the Kid can now be seen sporting the new look and looking eerily similar to Zubrus in those bizarre Caps commercials at (Can someone please explain to me how USA Today got the scoop? Seriously, it's a big paper but not nearly as reputable and noteworthy as, say, the NY Times or even our very own Post...).

Up until now I haven't weighed in on the jersey debate that has dominated message boards, blogs, and hockey call-in shows for the past few months, choosing instead to wait and see how they look. I guess I just don't understand what all the fuss is about, especially since no one had actually seen them outside of the NHL until now. It was all rumors and early reports of a product that was still in the works, so I chose to wait to see for myself before jumping on the bandwagon of shrieking hockey fans...

I really don't think they're that bad. In fact, I think they’re kind of sleek looking. This is what people were so upset about?

Look, I get that there is something to be said for tradition and I’m not arguing its place in hockey. I would be upset if any of the Original 6 teams were to drastically change their logos, partly because of the history and partly because they’re still some of the best logos in sports. And I’m certainly not advocating a change to something like those were hideous.

But change does happen, and it’s not always a bad thing. Heck, even those storied franchises have tweaked their design a bit in their history, and the other 34 teams have certainly made their share of adjustments in the last 40 years. I happen to like the current Caps logo, although I would prefer the original colors, but I’m excited to see what the Caps and the other teams unveil over the next year. We all know that a lot of them could use a major overhaul anyways.

Whatever the reason for new jerseys – increased product revenue across the board, an actual benefit to the game and players, a combination of the two – they’re here, they still look like hockey jerseys, and that’s all that matters to me. Let the people at Project Runway bitch about the season’s hottest trends and worst looks. That’s so beneath us common hockey fans. Honestly, they could be wearing skirts out there and I’d still watch...

...actually, that might make me go more. Who's with me?


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Hurricanes

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Where: RBC Center
1400 Edwards Mill Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
When: Thursday, January 18, 7:00 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, WTEM 980 AM; FSN South, WWMY 102.9 FM

Media Notes:
Washington Post
Washington Times
Raleigh News & Observer

2006-07 Season Series: Caps 1-2-0, Hurricanes 2-1-0

2006-07 Standings: Caps 19-20-7, 45 points – 4th in division, 13th in conference; Hurricanes 25-18-5, 55 points – 2nd in division, 6th in conference

Last Game: November 17 in Washington, Caps lost 4-1
- The two teams played a fairly even first period, with shots just about equal and no goals through twenty minutes. Then, as was becoming a trend, the Caps proceeded to fall apart in the second period.
- Two power play goals in less than two minutes late in the second would put the Hurricanes in the lead for good, as the Caps were unable to muster up any sort of a rally.
- I don’t know if the Caps knew this at the time, but that guy Brind’amour isn’t too shabby. Neither is his buddy Erik Cole. Both had multi-point games, and Cole factored into all 4 Canes tallies.
- The only Caps marker came from Richard Zednik (remember him? I think he used to play for us at one point…) with assists from Clymer and Beech on the power play. And that was all she wrote.
- This game was marked by the absence of Chris Clark, who was missing his first game after taking a puck in the mouth a few days before. Semin would leave the game in the third with an injury described by McPhee as being “somewhere on the body”. Thanks, George.
- Ovechkin was playing in his 100th NHL game yet had no goals, no assists, and no shots on goal until the third period. How very un-Ovechkin-like.

Things to Look for:
- Well, if you were hoping for another struggling opponent to help the Caps snap out of this funk, you came to the wrong place. The Hurricanes have won four of their last five games, which basically means...ruh-roh.
- Who needs the playoffs when you have the NHL’s helpful schedulers creating a playoff atmosphere in January? The Caps again face the Hurricanes three times over the next week, starting tonight in Carolina and continuing with a home and home set next weekend. I’d like to see some intensity, some fight in this Caps team during that stretch.
- The Caps will be without Mike Green, who took an Andrej Meszaros slapshot to the leg Tuesday night and is now on crutches. Jeff Schultz returns to the lineup in relief of the injured Green – his last stint was streaky at best, although there were some good moments out of the young defender. We’ll need to see more of that if the Caps are going to come out of this road trip alive.
- The Caps power play has sputtered lately and fell from 14th to 17th after the Ottawa game, and it won’t help that Carolina’s penalty kill is among the top 10 in the league. However, the Hurricanes are shorthanded quite a bit and the Caps need to make them pay, especially if their 5-on-5 play doesn’t improve significantly.

Possible Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex “Coming Through” Ovechkin, 9-Dainius “Clank” Zubrus, 17-Chris “Shortie” Clark
28-Alexander “the Best Kept Secret” Semin, 15-Boyd “2nd Line Killer” Gordon, 18-Matt “Along for the Ride” Pettinger
10-Matt “Unassisted” Bradley, 16-Brian “the Forechecking Fool” Sutherby, 27-Ben “Alex” Clymer
87-Donald “Threading the Needle” Brashear, 24-Kris “Back Again…” Beech, 21-Brooks “What’s Not to” Laich

3-Lawrence “Eminger’s New Bestest Friend” Nycholat, 44-Steve “the Scoring Machine” Eminger
2-Brian “Boards are Tricky” Pothier, 55-Jeff “No More Jitters” Schultz
6-Jamie “the Remote Hog” Heward, 26-Shaone “Oh No Mo” Morrisonn

1-Brent “Your Turn, Olie” Johnson, 37-Olie “Ready Aim Fire…Again” Kolzig

Possible Lineup for the Hurricanes
13-Ray “Former Oilers Stick Boy” Whitney, 17-Rod “Caps (and Lady) Killer” Brind’Amour, 26-Erik “Caps Killer 2: The Wrath of” Cole
11-Justin “Body Slammed” Williams, 12-Eric “the Eldest” Staal, 61-Cory “Matthews” Stillman
59-Chad “In the Spring, Becomes” LaRose, 25-Eric “Southern” Belanger, 24-Scott “Jay” Walker
16-Andrew “Cheryl” Ladd, 27-Craig “the Only” Adams, 19-Trevor “The Big” Letowski

2-Glen “Old Man” Wesley, 22-Mike “Fro Boy” Commodore
7-Niclas “London Bridge is” Wallin, 45-David Tanabe “Knees”
4-Dennis “Dressing on the” Seidenberg, 48-Anton “How Much Wood Could a” Babchuk

30-Cam “Babyface” Ward, 47-John “Golden” Grahame


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Once More, Without Feeling

I’m running out of ways to say the same things after each Capitals loss, and frankly I’m tired of trying...hence the delay on discussing last night’s game.

Once again the Caps revealed their inconsistencies in a very uneven performance.

Once again goaltending and defense alternated between being solid and suspect.

Once again the team dug a hole in the first period that could not be overcome.

It wasn’t a particularly bad game by the Caps, but it wasn’t particularly good either. There were exciting moments, but they were far outnumbered by what seemed to be a pretty boring game overall. No one played particularly well, although I thought Sutherby and Gordon had good games, Clark's goal was very nice, and Brashear seemed to have a better game than Semin (but then who didn't?).

So the Caps drop another one on the road, their 6th straight away from DC, and will once again have to regroup and figure out what the heck is going on. Clearly whatever was said in the closed door, players-only meeting the other day didn’t quite do the trick or just hasn’t sunk in yet. They get one last chance to snap the road losing streak when they travel to Carolina tomorrow night before returning home for a Panthers rematch on Saturday...then there’s a nice long break to reflect on what is going right and more importantly, what is going wrong.

Whatever the problem, we can take solace in a few things – first of all, Florida also lost last night, saving us the embarrassment of falling to last place in the least for now. Secondly, despite their lackluster play of late, the Caps remain only 5 points out of the final playoff spot and are still very much alive in the race. And we all know how quickly a 5-point gap can be closed.

Of course, if they don’t make it, they don’t make it. I just hope they put up a fight until the very end.

(Oh, and that the Penguins don’t make it either. Nothing like a little schadenfreude to start your day, right?)

Best part of last night? Caps blogger viewing party, take two - back and better than ever! Good turnout this time around and excellent planning by our host with the most. It's always nice to put faces with blogs, and I think everyone had a good time despite the pitiful hockey game...which only further proves the old saying "misery loves company". It was great to meet all of you!

As for people I'd already met...meh. It was just okay :)


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Troubling Tuesday

Oh we got trouble, right here in DC!

That's a capital "T" that rhymes with "P" and that stands for...

Pundit? Pressure? Pessimism?

There's a bit of doom and gloom going around the Beltway these days - get your shots and wash your hands several times a day, or you might just catch it. And frankly, I'm getting sick of it (I know, shocking!!)

Sure, it's hard to argue with the fact that the Caps haven't put up a solid effort in their last three games and have struggled overall since the holiday break. It doesn't help that other teams have hit hot streaks in the midst of a lukewarm stretch for the Caps, making the conference standings look that much more bleak.

On the other hand, one could say that they are just going through one of those stretches that a young team will go through. It's true, since Christmas the Caps haven't been as sharp - but while some of that is due to just pure laziness and youth, some of that can also be attributed to the combined forces of the scheduling gods and the gods of fate.

But there's trouble, gosh darn it. I know because I read it in the paper.

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that people couldn't get enough of this scrappy little team? The Caps were the sleeper hit of the season, clawing and scratching their way into the postseason and potentially eyeing the division title. Scott Burnside even wrote a glowing piece on them...come on, it doesn't get better than that!

All of a sudden, though, both the local and national media has been focused on the negative. The Caps aren't making the playoffs. They've been overachieving through the first 41 games of the year. They're sliding down to exactly where everyone thought they would be all along. Hello, top 5 draft pick.

Because they've lost 2 straight.

Well, guess what kids - Buffalo has lost 3 straight. Anaheim has lost 4 of it's last 6. It happens. Teams get hot and cold, people go through slumps, teams lose to other teams they should probably beat, and people get injured. There's a reason they play 82 games.

Now I'm not going to sit here and say the Caps are a lock for the playoffs or that they've been playing well enough lately to get that far...even I'm not that naive. The fact is this is the time that will make or break this team. If they can pull together and get things clicking again, start stringing more wins together and lose fewer games in a row, they're absolutely still in it - if they don't, they're not. Simple as that.

But I refuse to agree with this thought from the latest naysayer:

"They are still in the race, but their overall game has taken several steps backward in the past few weeks and might be a sign they are starting to find their real level as teams around the league begin to bear down more."
Please. The Caps aren't finding their real level - they're not playing anywhere near their real level. If they were coming out every game guns blazing with the same fire and jump they showed earlier in the season, and were still coming up short, I might be willing to agree.

But we all know they're not playing as a team right now - mistakes are being made from all positions, all players, all skill levels, and it has to stop. We know it and they know it. The fact that they held a closed-door team meeting after losing just their second straight game, albeit in a very embarassing fashion, shows that the leadership is on the case. This is the time for the veterans and leaders to step up and speak out to prevent the dangerous slide that could come from not snapping out of it, but it is in no way a time to panic.

This week's installment of "Quit picking on/knocking down/writing off my team" has been brought to you by a generous grant from the Hopeless Optimists Society. Visit our website today to order your very own pair of rose-colored glasses - now with silver lining magnifiers!


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Senators

Who: Your Nation’s Capitals vs. Their Nation’s Capitals
Where: ScotiaBank Place
1000 Palladium Dr.Kanata, Ontario K2V 1A5 CANADA
When: Tuesday, January 16, 7:30 pm

Broadcast Info: CSN, WTEM 980 AM; Sportsnet, The Team 1200

Media Notes:
Washington Post
Globe and Mail
Ottawa Sun
Ottawa Citizen

2006-07 Season Series: Caps 2-0-0, Senators 0-1-1

2006-07 Standings: Caps 19-19-7, 45 points – 4th in division, 13th in conference; Senators 26-19-2, 54 points – 3rd in division, 5th in conference

Last Game: December 6 in Washington, Caps won 6-2
- The Senators’ final visit to DC would cap off a season high 4-game winning streak for the home team and ended a winning streak of the same length for Ottawa
- Clark finished the night with 2 goals including the game-winner late in the second period – his second GWG against the Sens in as many games.
- The game was marked by a parade to the penalty box on a series of both good and bad calls, as the two teams combined for 15 penalties (not including a series of fights over the first two periods). Ottawa’s Peter Schaefer was later fined for waving a towel on the end of his stick in surrender after yet another Senators penalty.
- Ovechkin and Zubrus both finished the evening with three assists, while Bradley added a goal and an assist and Brooks Laich scored his first of the season.
- The shots continued the pattern set by the Caps at the beginning of the winning streak – outshoot the opposition in the first (19-11), get outshot and outplayed in the second (4-14) and draw even in the third (14-12).

Things to Look for:
- The Caps continue their streaky ways, bouncing back from 3 straight wins to drop two in succession. Meanwhile the Senators have rebounded from the Northeast Division basement and now sit in fifth place in the conference. They have put together two 4-game winning streaks and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games.
- While the Senators are celebrating a decisive 8-3 win over the Canadiens on Hockey Day in Canada (grumble), the Caps will need to bounce back from one of their worse games so far this season, a 7-2 rout at the hands of the suddenly potent Panthers.
- The Caps have won both meetings with Ottawa this season and now look to take the season series with a win on the road. It would be their first win away from Verizon Center since beating Toronto before Christmas as they have dropped below .500 on the road for the first time since the end of October.
- Semin continues to light it up and seems to have found some consistency since returning from injury – he is currently nursing a goal-scoring streak that includes 8 goals in his last 5 games. Ovechkin has a point-scoring streak of his own to defend, with 3 goals and 6 assists in his last 6 games.
- I don’t want to overanalyze this one too much – the bottom line is that the Caps have to play at least as well as they did against Tampa and better than they did against the Panthers and Flyers. Their consistency is starting to falter and as a result so is their position in the conference. What was a tight race is starting to open up a bit - we’ve still got a lot of hockey to go, but the Caps need to go into the All-Star break strong. I hate saying this, but these next few games are probably must-wins for the Caps if they want to stay in the playoff hunt for much longer.

Possible Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex “Aiming for Sid” Ovechkin, 9-Dainius “Shanked It” Zubrus, 17-Chris “Looks Like a Hockey Player Now” Clark28-Alexander “the Overlooked” Semin, 24-Kris “the Invisible Man” Beech, 18-Matt “GOOOOOOOAAAL!” Pettinger
21-Brooks “Love, Not” Laich, 16-Brian “Hot Hands” Sutherby, 27-“Hot Hands II” Clymer
87-Donald “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Fist” Brashear, 15-Boyd “Killer” Gordon, 10-Matt “the Unassisted” Bradley
2-Brian “the Capital Capital” Pothier, 26-Shaone “Gotta Go to Mo” Morrisonn
3-Lawrence “the All-Star” Nycholat, 44-Steve “Was That an Assist?” Eminger
6-Jamie “Johnny’s Dinner Date” Heward, 52-Mike “the Young Star” Green
1-Brent “Big Money” Johnson, 37-Olie “the Leader” Kolzig

Possible Lineup for the Sens
15-Dany "Packing" Heatley, 22-Chris "Machine Gun" Kelly, 11-Daniel "Alfie" Alfredsson
37-Dean "of Students" McAmmond, 20-Antoine "We Ne-" Vermette, 44-Patrick “All Hallows” Eaves
27-Peter "Wave the White Flag" Schaeffer, 89-Mike “Desert Diva” Comrie, 25-Chris "Brashear's Punching Bag" Neil
16-Brian "I Miss Erskine" McGrattan, 17-Denis "Dorothy" Hamel

6-Wade “in the Water” Redden, 14-Andrej Meszaros
4-Chris "I Miss Chara" Phillips, 24-Anton "Chekhov" Volchenkov
7-Joseph "Ivan" Corvo, 42-Tom "What's So" Preissing
5-Christoph "Franz" Schubert

1-Ray Emery “Board”, 29-Martin Gerber “Baby”