Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thrills, Chills, and Preseason Excitement

There's really nothing quite like preseason.

It's a bizarre time of year where you see some guys trying out new things (that often don't work), some guys being put out in new situations (who really shouldn't be out there), and an entire game with a complete lack of intensity (...yeah).

But for my hockey-starved heart tonight was like a tonic, a break in the monotony that is the offseason and a sign that soon enough we'll be right back in action. As soon as I set foot in the arena I was like a little kid. I was pointing excitedly at things and letting out weird little squeaks of joy for the strangest reasons - seeing the newly painted concourse for the first time. Hearing the announcer say "Welcome to Verrrrrrrrrrrizon Center!" after warmups. Listening to the muzak-esque music as we were warned that pucks may leave the playing surface.

There were some things that probably were worthy of a CapsChick squeak. The new scoreboard, for example, is better than advertised in my opinion - it's huge and crystal clear and really pretty spectacular. I took about 750 pictures of it, too, but mere pictures really can't show how great this thing is. You have to check it out in person. Wow, what do you know - there just happens to be a game against the Flyers this Friday!! The evil Flyers, the return of Briere the magical spearing midget, a new scoreboard and preseason fun? Now that's a Friday night. Join us, won't you? Tonight's crowd was a bit...sparse.

But it was all there. Horn Guy doing his thing. The power play music. The hockey song. Our beloved announcer with his crazy deep voice and his "Washingtoooooooon CAPITALS!". It didn't particularly matter that it was a meaningless game or that preseason still goes on for another week. I was right back where I always am, bouncing around like an idiot and yelling lovingly at my boys to stop doing stupid things. (It never works.)

So you're probably thinking, what about the game itself? Hockey? No?

It was a preseason game. There was good stuff and then there was forehead-slapping stuff. Here's a little bit of both:

- Mike Green had one of his trademark up and down games. There was even a five minute stretch of the game that was a perfect microcosm for a Greenie game - first he took a penalty. Then he emerged from the box and potted a goal. A nice goal, no less. And I have to say even with the dumb penalties and such he really does look a million times better and continues to make a case for a permanent roster spot.

- On the flip side, Jeff Schultz continued to make a case for a one-way ticket back to Hershey. I love Schultzie, I really do, but tonight was...rough. To say the least. When he hit guys it was almost an afterthought, like he forgot that he had about a foot and 20 pounds on most of the Canes. Then there were the defensive miscues, the turnovers, the botched plays that just had me shaking my head. He still needs a little work, unfortunately. I wonder if Hanlon agrees with me.

- And then there was Eminger, young defenseman #3 in tonight's lineup. I thought he played a pretty decent game, actually, and the reason I know this is because I didn't find myself saying "dear god, Eminger, what the hell was that??". Not once. He was invisible except for a few times when he joined the offensive rush (and only when it was smart to do so) - and for Eminger, invisible is good. Great, actually. We'll see what happens in the last three games, I guess.

- Semin was both the best player and the worst player for the Caps tonight - a pretty incredible feat, if you ask me. He was darting in between Canes players like they were standing still, taking amazing shots, making amazing plays, all good things. And then there were the plays that were too fancy, the passes that never made it to their intended destination, the turnovers and bizarre moves.

Oh, and my favorite moment, a classic Semin moment: 0.7 seconds left and a Carolina player darts down ice with the puck, clearly not with enough time to make it all the way...and Semin hooks him, taking a stupid, lazy penalty as we go into overtime. Because it wouldn't be a game if Semin didn't land in the box for hooking, right? Doesn't matter. I still adore him, even if I'm the only one.

- Once again the Caps scored first. Once again they blew a two-goal lead. Does...not...compute.

- I think Tarik jinxed the power play, because it looked kind of brutal out there. Either that or they really need Clark for it to work right. The penalty killing looked good, though.

- Ovie was throwing the body around quite a bit, which was just nice to see. Gordon, too, was pretty physical and took the brunt of a few hits, as well. Speaking of Gordon, did anyone see that he was picked as the one to watch on the Caps this year? Apparently he's supposed to pick up some offensive slack. Uh, memo to NHL.com - he's a defensive forward. We know that. His offensive output is fine.

- The first period was all Caps, and then they went to sleep. Sound familiar?

- I thought Kozlov looked pretty good out there tonight, probably the best of the three acquisitions (although Poti was fine, too). His goal was a dirty, hard-working deflection of an Ovechkin shot - exactly the kind of goal Clark used to score. That in itself is a great sign to me.

- Thankfully we weren't subjected to a shootout, with Green providing the offensive push for Backstrom's tap-in goal. They gave first star to Backstrom, which was a little bit of a head-scratcher for me - other than that goal he really didn't stand out that much to me. Green, who made the goal happen and scored the first goal, was probably much more deserving.

Check out my pictures from tonight:

I'm off to sleep in my Caps t-shirt.

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