After doing some market research, conducting focus groups, and generally testing the waters, I've discovered that my game diaries are not the most popular features here in the Cheap Seats...so naturally, I'm doing another one.
Just because I can.
If you're bored (and it's August, so of course you're bored) I highly recommend checking out this game, even without my witty and intelligent commentary. It's guaranteed to make you happy and put a smile on your face - at least if you're a Caps fan.
Lightning @ Caps 3/18/07
Capitals 25-34-13, Lightning 39-29-4
In goal: Olie Kolzig (WSH), Johan Holmqvist (TB) / Marc Denis (TB)
Watch along at home
At this point in the season the Caps had already been eliminated from the playoffs for what felt like months, but Tampa Bay was still fighting for a spot and potentially the division title. Going into this game the Lightning were 4 points back of Southeast-leading Atlanta with 10 games left and a game in hand.
So naturally you'd expect the Bolts to show up with fire in their stare and winning on their mind. Nowhere near comfortably positioned they were taking on a Caps team that had won only once in their last ten games, five times in their last twenty-five, and Tampa had already won five of the last six meetings between these two teams. All they had to do was show up and they'd get the win, right?
Enter the Capitals...and a few youngsters looking to light the lamp.
We are treated to a montage of great moments in Caps-Lightning history as Comcast opens their broadcast. Ooh, I'm all atwitter - what goodies will be rolled out from this past season of battle between these two somewhat bitter rivals?
There's Vinny making a routine pass. Brashear hitting someone. More routine passes. A Tampa player flying through the air for no apparent reason, that's good. Goal celebrations from both sides...okay, I'm done. Drop the damn puck already.
19:42 Joe B. reminds us (a little too cheerfully, might I add) that this is game number seven on the year between these two teams and Tampa has won five of the first six. That's just some spectacular suckitude, boys.
19:35 Here's a fascinating first line - Ovie, Novotny and Giroux. Second line consists of Semin, Beech and Fleischmann, then Laich, Gordon and Clark, and bringing up the rear we have Brash, Clymer and Bradley. Novotny on the first line? Clymer playing center? How the hell did we win this game??
17:39 Gordo's so cute - he does this adorable little move where he tries to check Lecavalier and ends up bouncing awkwardly off Vinny, off the boards and onto the ice. So precious.
16:34 Beech mercifully finishes a shift after falling down, almost turning over the puck, and taking an "accidental" hip check from his own teammate...enjoy Columbus, Beechie.
Oh, good...a look at the Eastern Conference standings. Know how to tell when your team sucks? They list everyone but you. Seriously. 14 teams, the Caps conspicuously absent. We see that Tampa is not in the playoffs yet. Locker: "This Tampa Bay team has not won a playoff series when they started away from home. " It's nice to know that some things never change, isn't it?
15:10 Clarkie is skating along and stumbles a little. Looking under his skate he realizes that he's stepped on St. Louis; disgustedly he wipes his foot off on Laich's sweater and keeps going.
14:36 Semin gets the puck away from a Tampa player by, from what I can tell, merely saying "Boo". It's a good idea, but it backfires as he appears to have scared himself as well and the puck dribbles out of the zone anyways.
14:20 Fleischmann spots daylight under Holmqvist's arm and makes him pay, 1-0 Caps. The crowd goes...moderately wild. Ah, the energy and excitement of a post-St. Patrick's day, March Madness Sunday, Verizon Center crowd.
Our Toyota Ones to Watch: Marty St. Louis vs. Milan Jurcina. Place your bets, folks.
11:27 Not much suspense on that one as St. Louis foolishly decides to take the puck up the boards and Jerky is there to show him the glass.
Smokin' Al behind the bench is talking about the young guys fighting for jobs next year and we pan the bench just in time to see Brooksie yawning widely. Oops. Way to show that enthusiasm, kid.
9:33 So I'm watching Eminger fight for the puck along the boards and I'm thinking to myself, huh, he's doing well. Wins the battle, gets the puck, good job, Emmy. Cut to two seconds later, when he takes a lazy holding call. Oh, Steve. Luckily the penalty is killed off and no harm is done.
6:57 As Ovie loses a footrace in an attempt to wash out icing, Locker is in shock that with all the changes made to the rules no-touch icing remains an urban legend. Shock? Really? But that's a rule that would benefit the game and the players...why would they add it? No, no - better to change the jerseys...
Van Massenhoven wipes out in front of the Caps bench, causing the players and coaches to have a little chuckle at his expense. Hanlon even takes a moment to point and laugh at him, proving once again why I completely adore him.
6:22 Fleischmann with a sneaky shot for his 2nd of the game, Caps up 2-0. Aw, Flash - you're just trying to get back at me for calling you useless and inconsistent, aren't you? Keep it up.
5:56 Joe B. mocks Holmqvist a little, and rightly so - in three games against the Caps this season he has two wins...and a save % of .823. Ouch. Those are Esche-esque numbers.
More picking on Tampa's goaltending as we get a split-screen look at the Lightning tandem. The numbers are scary, but scarier are Denis's darty eyes as he sits on the bench. It's like he knows danger is coming...
3:21 Here comes darty-eyes! Let the wheel o' goaltenders commence! (Don't get too comfy on that bench, Johan.)
2:14 Brashear "races" for an icing and decides - nah. I'll just cream the guy instead. Apparently the Bolts aren't too pleased with this so they send in...Nolan Pratt? Ooh, I'm so scared. Don't worry about Donald, though, he has fellow heavyweights Greenie and Novotny backing him up.
Comcast takes a brief moment to plug Washington Post Live, the exciting premiere of which will be the following day with Alex Ovechkin as one of the guests. Except its not exciting and Ovie won't be there due to something that happens later...0 for 2, guys.
1:15 Boyd Gordon, meet Jason Ward. Boyd Gordon's ass, meet the ice. Ouch. Poor Muffins.
0:07 That was the most graceful faceoff I've ever seen. Novotny is tripped by his own player off the draw (again, "accidental", I'm sure). Jiri then takes down the Tampa center, who proceeds to take down one of his teammates. And the league-wide mocking of the Southeast Division continues.
19:23 In trying to catch up to Ovie, Perrin hooks, holds and interferes with him before being simply pushed to the ice by #8. Embarrassment and a minor penalty? That's a rough shift. The Caps gear up to take on Tampa and their powerhouse 28th ranked penalty kill...
18:46 ...and it looks it. Semin winds and fires while the Tampa PKers are staring at something shiny to make it 3-0. Locker: "This is everything and the kitchen sink." Indeed it is, Locker. Indeed it is. We get a look at the torque on Semin's stick as he shoots, the second time we've had a slow motion view of the relative whippiness because Locker is weirdly obsessed today. Fill in your own Freudian jokes at your leisure.
16:23 Locker mentions that the Caps are passing like the Lightning usually do. Now Craig, are you suggesting the Caps don't usually pass well? I've always been partial to their affinity for stick to skate, stick to open ice, and stick to opponent's stick passes, myself.
13:16 Did I ever mention that Semin has sick hands? No? Well, Alexander Semin...has sick hands. That's just not normal. 4-0 Caps as we pan the half-full crowd and...hey, it's my parents! Cool. Anyways.
11:43 Semin makes it 5-0 on what can only be described as a completely incredible one-legged, off-balance rifle. Ready? Wait for it, my favorite Joe B. call...HAT TRICK ALEXANDER SEMIN! Time to switch goalies, here comes Holmqvist.
Just a quick aside as we wait for the crew to clear off the hats - for anyone who remembers Semin during his first year, when he never seemed to be having fun, there is just nothing nicer than seeing him laugh and smile with his team on the bench. Am I right? Moving on...
9:54 Joe B: "They [Tampa] look flatter than milk on a plate right now." That's a new one.
8:26 Pothier's stick is about an inch off the ice when St. Louis runs into it, taking it in his midsection and sending Potsie to the sin bin for hooking. (St. Louis is short...you catching on?)
7:36 Bradley with "a head of steam" (uh-huh) gets held by Boyle and thus endeth the Tampa power play. Torts looks ready to take someone into that scary torture chamber I know he brings to every game. There...will...be...punishment.
2:45 Shane O'Brien has been sniffing around for a fight all shift long and finally gets one when he takes on Bradley, always willing to drop the gloves. Pretty even throwdown, although Brads gets the upper hand at the end when O'B falls to the ice. We'll give that one to Brads just because I'm feeling ornery.
2:16 Kuba spoils our good time and Olie's shutout bid, ripping a shot over Olie's glove to make it 5-1. Um...phooey, I guess.
18:02 Time for my favorite Ovie move. No, it's not his wicked curl and drag or his blazing slapshot. It's when someone foolishly thinks they can hit him and they end up being the ones on their rump. In this case we have ourselves a two for one special, as Tarnasky pays the price and then flies into Richards, sending them both to the ice. Awesome.
16:43 Clymer in the box for holding...and our crack announcing team takes this opportunity to remind us, in case we've forgotten, that Benny was a member of the Lightning when they won the Cup. Good to know.
14:56 Rough penalty kill for the Caps as the Lightning seem to finally have found their ice legs. Hockey 101, boys - when shorthanded you want to clear the puck. The penalty expires, the Caps survive, and Olie puts a voodoo curse on every single one of his teammates for the two minute shooting gallery he just had to endure.
12:11 A little bit of a flurry around Olie causes Joe B.'s blood pressure to rise dramatically. Gordo with an amazing defensive play to keep Vinny from scoring - step back, Brind'amour, I give you Boyd Gordon: your 2008-09 Selke winner!
10:38 UVA Pep Band in the house...faaaantastic. Bad luck for the Bolts, as the band is stationed on the visitor's side of the rink and doesn't quite grasp the fact that no music plays while the puck is in play. Worse luck for the Cavs, who saw themselves eliminated from the NCAA tournament during this game.
9:26 Giroux with the shot, Holmqvist with the save. But enter O'Brien to make sure it's a goal by careening into the net and taking the puck with him, 6-1 Caps. Meanwhile Boyle gets the stick up high on Ovie (no call) and Alex is spitting mad...and spitting blood. Ew. Go get stitched up, Alex.
9:15 Laich puts the play offside and then does a little pirouette spinny thing. Aw, our own little Brian Boitano! Yes, clean your blade off, Brooksie - that was the problem.
St. Louis vs. Jurcina update - decision: Jurcina. The big man renders the little man absolutely useless (-1, 1 shot) while putting together quite a nice game for himself (1 assist, +2, 5 hits).
8:58 Wow. In the long and storied franchise history of the Bolts, they've played in DC 36 times and won a grand total of 9. Brings back memories of those good ol' days when the Caps were division leaders just for showing up, remember? *Sigh*
6:45 Olie makes a great save on Jason Ward by essentially doing the splits. After play stops Ward goes over to Olie and bows in reverence, tossing a sacrificial lamb at his feet and kissing his skates. Or maybe he just said nice save - I've never been good at lip-reading.
4:25 St. Louis gets away from Brash's hulking body but then shaking with fear turns over the puck to...Kris Beech? Um, I mean, sure...Beech. Grr, scary.
3:44 Sarich with the hook and, brace yourselves - Semin with the dive. Someone's getting a letter. On the replay it's not his most spectacular dive - it almost looks like he really did just fall, this was definitely not a Crosby caliber dive by any means.
2:05 Shortly after Mo learns he should never lead the offensive attack, Flash sets up behind the net and feeds Gordo to make it 7-1. We hear the haunting strains of a trumpet playing Taps in the crowd (no, really).
0:32 Joe B. shows off his mad math skills by pointing out that 2+2 indeed equals 4...and scores of mathematicians sleep easy in their beds knowing their jobs are safe.
The horn sounds but with Brash and Clymer on the ice, there's no way Tampa is leaving the playing surface before taking out some frustration at having, well, sucked. A couple of 27s are yelling at each other - I think Clymer could take ol' Tim "the Toe" Taylor any day, don't you? Cooler heads prevail, the players head back to the locker room, and the Caps' role as perennial thorn in the side of playoff-bound teams continues.