Saturday, March 31, 2007

Previously on A View from the Cheap Seats...

[Note: I'm feeling a little under the weather today so instead of a fresh out of the box gameday preview, I'm acting like a television network and showing a rerun. Luckily most of the same stuff holds true...except players might be gunning for Tim Taylor with a little extra oomph tonight. You know, during the whole 3 minutes he's on the ice.]

Another Southeast Division showdown! Can you FEEL the excitement??

Here are a few tips and tricks for the Caps to keep in mind as they take on the Bolts this afternoon.
- Score early
- Stay out of the box
- Don’t take the second period off.
- Win in regulation
- Shut down St. Louis
- Shut down Richards
- Shut down Lecavalier
- Shut down Lecavalier
- Shut down Lecavalier

Fun Facts (courtesy of these fine sites):

- Contrary to popular belief, it is quite common for people to be struck by lightning, and in fact lightning is a very poor killer. While people do get killed by lightning, most survive it.
- Still, lightning kills more people each year on average than hurricanes and tornadoes combined.
- A lightning stroke begins with a faint predischarge, called the leader, which goes from the cloud to the ground. The leader establishes a path for the highly luminous return stroke (what you really see) which propagates from the ground up to the cloud. The first stroke of a flash is usually preceded by a "stepped leader", so called because it appears to progress in discrete steps (about 100 segments, each 50 m long) from cloud to ground. The subsequent strokes are preceded by a "dart leader" which smoothly follows the path of the previous return stroke (and is about 10 times faster).

- Safety Tips (courtesy of the National Weather Service):

  • The safest place commonly available during a lightning storm is a large, fully enclosed, substantially constructed building, e.g. your typical house, school, library, or other public building. [St. Pete Times - check!]
  • Proceed from higher to lower elevations [so much for the Cheap Seats...]
  • Once inside, stay away from corded telephones, electrical appliances, lighting fixtures, ham radio microphones, electric sockets and plumbing. [Um...there’s none of that in a modern NHL arena, right??]
  • Avoid tall, isolated objects like trees, poles, and light posts. [Or Jeff Schultz, Milan Jurcina, and Shaone Morrisonn.]
  • Do not remain in open vehicles like farm tractors, cabless construction machinery, riding lawnmowers and golf carts [No zamboni-driving. Got it.]
  • If circumstances or a series of bad decisions [AHEM, Steve Eminger...or Brian Pothier...or Mike Green...or...anyone in a Caps uniform] have found you outside of a shelter, far removed from a safer place when lightning is occurring, there are still measures to be taken.
  • If lightning is about to strike, it will sometimes provide a very few seconds of warning. Sometimes your hair may stand on end, your skin will tingle, light metal objects will vibrate or you will hear a crackling or "kee-kee" sound. [Incidentally, "kee-kee" is the scientific term...]
  • If this happens and you're in a group, spread out so there are several body lengths between each person. [A thrilling Southeast Division showdown, so...check.]
  • Once you've spread out, use the lightning crouch. Put your feet together, squat down, tuck your head, and cover your ears. [Oh, the Mike Green position!]
  • When the immediate threat of lightning has passed, continue heading to the safest place possible. [i.e., the golf course.]

Happy Saturday!


Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm Schizophrenic and So Am I

Ah, good old Dave Fay is at it again.

It was only about a week ago that Fay made his return to the Washington Times with a piece that has been widely discussed, analyzed, and basically ripped apart by various Caps bloggers and even the owner himself. In the article he claimed that, among other things, the Caps and Penguins were working on the same timeline. Therefore the lack of forward movement by the Caps while Pittsburgh shoots into the playoffs is an indication that nothing is right with this team.

I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

Amazing what ten days and a visit from those revered Penguins will do, huh? Now for some reason Dave is Mr. Optimistic., Mr. Give-it-Another-Year, Mr. They're-Just-Missing-a-Few-Parts-and-They'll-Be-a-Playoff-Bound-Team-With-Exciting-Players-and-Fans-in-the-Seats...

..but you can call him Skip for short.

At least that's what you might believe he was if you read today's article in the Times. The crazy notions he comes up with in this one, really - the fact that Pittsburgh has missed the playoffs more consecutive seasons and had more first round picks than the Caps over the last five years means their rebuild is further along? YOU DON'T SAY. It's just amazing to me that this story is written without even the faintest trace of irony or self-awareness, not even a mention of that slam piece masquerading as journalism earlier in the month.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Dave Fay piece if he didn't take a few digs (a few?) at the current's my favorite:

[McPhee] refused to discuss what those pieces [needed to improve the team] are or their costs, but it's obvious -- at least one quality center, a skilled right wing and at least two defensemen who can handle the puck without treating it like a live hand grenade. McPhee's main problem might be to persuade free agents to come to a team lacking in a winning atmosphere.

By the way, I'm pretty sure teams understand that a winning atmosphere comes Which they can help us do. Just a thought...


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gameday Preview: Caps vs Panth...Aw, Never Mind

I'm throwing in the towel.

Not on the team. Not on gameday previews. But on gameday previews on this team when they take on the Panthers. I slave over a hot stove keyboard all night and this is the thanks I get?

Let's recap...

Game 1: Things started out well, with the Caps beating the Panthers 5-2 in the first meeting of the season. We all were walking around on cloud 9, remember? Pffft, we can beat the Panthers! Last year was a fluke!

Game 2: The euphoria continued with another decisive win for the Caps, who took a 4-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Everything was good. We were happy.

*SIGH* And then...

Game 3: Oh, lordy. 54 shots, a goalie change, and 7 goals (including a hat trick) later, the Caps are searching through the rubble for their dignity. "I swear, I had it when we left the hotel this morning..."

Game 4: A penalty-filled, sleep-inducing mess of a game. I guess they were still looking for that pesky dignity. Clearly it wasn't in the penalty box.

Game 5: The third Caps loss at the hands of the Panthers in 19 days included more penalties, 18 between the two teams - including 2 by Kolzig. The Cats went three for six with the extra man and the Caps limped out of Sunrise, Florida with yet another loss.

Game 6: The first game after the trade deadline is always a weird one. The Caps fell behind early but charged back and forced a shootout...where of course they lost. Did I mention the Panthers had yet to win in the shootout? Ah, but enter the Caps, the cure for all that ails you.

I'm not even going to try and figure out the logic behind this pain in the rear Panthers' team. There are just some teams that continuously dominate other teams over certain periods of time (see Penguins, Pittsburgh) and clearly the Panthers are reveling in their moment in the sun. The Caps and Panthers meet twice more before the end of the season thanks to some joker in the scheduling department.

Now would be a good time for the Caps to shake off that yoke of shame and embrace the spoiler role - 'cause don't look now, but the Panthers aren't dead yet.

Almost. But not yet. Let's make it happen, shall we?


In other news, I need to point out my shiny new digs over at Southeast Shootout, beginning today! I'm just starting out, so naturally I want to be able to brag about a meaningless win over our precious division rivals right away. You know, make friends :)

Be sure to stop by and say hello, fling a little mud (all in good fun, of course)...and convince me that I'm not horribly outclassed by my SeSo compatriots!


Burn Baby, Burn

I hope you don't mind if I take a moment to talk about another team other than the Caps this morning. I mean, let's face it - there won't be much to talk about regarding our boys until at least July 1.

Okay. They might win a game or two between now and the end of the season.

Meh. It could happen.

Anyways...don't worry, I'm not going to talk about the Habs, at least not right now. I get the distinct feeling that, from the lack of response I get whenever I talk about Les Canadiens, you all couldn't care less (although that's not going to completely dissuade just get a reprieve for today). So instead l'll discuss a team that Washingtonians probably care even less about - the Calgary Flames.

I have kind of adopted the Flames as my third team in the last few years. I'll be honest, before their surprising 2004 playoff run I really knew very little about them. Yet I don't consider myself a bandwagon fan, not really. I remember being in Canada and watching their first round series against the Vancouver Canucks, and there was just something about this team. They reminded me of the kind of Caps team I loved watching - tenacious, hard-working, tight knit...just so much fun to root for.

That first series was one of those that becomes embedded in the memory for the complete playoff essence it carries with it. Every penalty is do or die, every shot dead on, every check followed through. I couldn't tell you who scored the second goal in the third game or who led each team in ice time in game four. I couldn't tell you what was the momentum-swinger for each match. I really could have picked either team to fall in love with for the pure grit and entertainment value that was brought to the ice each game. But I always had a soft spot for Jarome Iginla and I have an even bigger soft spot for underdog teams, so Calgary it was.

I didn't think they would win that round. No one thought they would win that round. But they did, and it kind of cemented them in my mind as my Western Conference choice. Bear in mind, that same year saw the Habs storm back to defeat Boston in 7 games, another upset, so I was flying high - in my little world of completely warped reality I envisioned these two underdog teams racing through the rest of the postseason, their run culminating in an epic battle for the Cup.

Well, it didn't exactly happen that way. Montreal lost to eventual Cup winners the Lightning in round 2 and just like that my entire focus shifted to a highly entertaining Flames team. The icing on the cake for me was their second round defeat of the Red Wings (but lets be honest, isn't any Red Wings defeat an icing moment?) and I was hooked. I loved Jarome Iginla, naturally, and was amazed by Miika Kiprusoff, naturally. But what I loved about that Flames team were the gritty, character guys that I love to this day - Conroy, Warrener, Regehr, and of course, our very own Chris Clark.

Watching them race through the Sharks in the Conference Finals, I had the feeling shared by every Flames fan across Calgary - they could really win this, the whole thing. It was possible. They played what still in my mind was one of the greatest Stanley Cup Finals I've ever seen, culminating in a breathtaking game 7 that unfortunately went the wrong way. But I didn't stop following the Flames when the season ended or when the lockout froze the hockey world in a kind of suspended animation. I watched them fall to the still-Mighty Ducks in the first round of the 2006 playoffs, and I've continued to keep my eye on them even while being completely absorbed in a Caps-Habs world.

It's been an interesting voyage this season, not unlike that of a Caps fan for all its ups and downs. The Flames, while dominant at home, have proven to be on par with our own homebodies in their lack of effectiveness on the road. Their inability to win in the shootout has also hampered their advance. Still, they've hung in there for most of the year, hovering among the middle to bottom of the Western Conference standings. The return of Craig Conroy and a few other trades have bolstered the lineup for the stretch run.

They've recently had a bit of a scare as Colorado has decided to start playing hockey right about the time everyone had counted them out, and the Flames are having to look over their shoulders a bit. A once gaping lead over the Avs has become a much slimmer margin that peaked at just 5 points, and they remain the only Western Conference team that has yet to clinch a playoff spot. They've responded well, though, winning four straight overall and two straight on the road including one elusive shootout win against Minnesota to regain a more comfortable (but still not cozy) 7 point cushion.

Tonight Iggy and the boys take on the Wild for the second half of a two game series and the final game of the eight between these division rivals. The Flames look to extend their road-winning streak to three games, their first such streak since March of 2004, and will be watching the scoreboard as the Avs and Coyotes battle later tonight in the desert. It's one of those storylines that, while not filled with as much intrigue or as many scenarios as the Eastern Conference playoff battle, is still thrilling to watch and could go down to the wire. Go Flames Go!

[Feel better, HG :) ]


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Jerky & Mo Show - Season or Series Finale?

Some interesting comments from Hanlon today per Capitals Insider regarding the future of the Caps defensive corps, particularly the pairing of Morrisonn and Jurcina. This stuck out to me:

"We all have to take a look," Hanlon said. "I'm not making any predictions about next year [regarding] who's going to do what or who's going to play where. We're going to finish in the bottom handful of teams."
Tarik mentioned he was surprised at how frank Hanlon was in regards to specific players. It's true, Hanlon doesn't tend to like picking on or singling out individuals, good or bad. I think that it's the end of the season, though, and if you can't speak frankly about where you've been and where you're going now, when can you?

This is a team that is clearly struggling in so many areas, that needs improvement in so many areas - and let's be honest, I'd say 50% of the guys on the roster are probably fighting for jobs next year. Mediocre performances now could mean a one-way ticket out of DC later on. The fact that Hanlon addresses this head on shows me that at least he's aware we're not going to win a Cup with the team we have. I also find the underlining tone of everything he says encouraging, and it echoes what we've been hearing from the Caps organization for the last few weeks - help is coming this offseason.

[Psssst....get Chris Drury!!]

[Psst...PSSSSST...get Brian Rafalski!!]


A View from the Anti-Cheap Seats

Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and marks
Any heart not tough
Or strong enough

To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain

Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts

I'm young I know
But even so
I know a thing or two
I learned from you

I really learned a lot, really learned a lot
Love is like a flame, it burns you when its hot

Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts

Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess
They're not foolin' me

I know it isn't true, I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue

Love hurts, ooh,ooh love hurts
Ooh, ooh love hurts

I know it isn't true, I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie, made to make you blue
Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts
Ooh ooh love hurts
Ooh ooh...

Love Hurts by Nazareth

Ouch. That one hurt.

Pop Quiz: What is Kerry Fraser's problem?
a) He hates the Caps
b) The years of obsessive hairspray use has warped his brain...and his vision
c) Someone in the Penguins organization got to him
d) All of the above

If you answered d) All of the above, pat yourself on the back. It's the only reason I can think of for the blatant non-calls and the more blatant bad calls that littered this game. Just ridiculous.

But as you all know, I don't like to blame the officiating here in the Cheap Seats. It's just as painful for the Caps to waste their own precious few power play chances, continue to exhibit lackluster penalty-killing, and blow yet another lead. Good teams beat out bad referees almost every time, and while the Caps didn't play that badly, it wasn't great either.

What else can I say? Clearly the Penguins are that stubborn kind of demon that will take another year or two to exorcise. Hopefully it will happen while I still have my own teeth.

I do want to take a moment to extend my sincere appreciation to Ted Leonsis for inviting me to spend the evening as one of his guests in the owner's box. Even with the loss it was a truly great experience and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. My sister and I were in awe for most of the game, it was so amazing. Also, I'm still giddy at getting to meet Dick Patrick, just a Capitals' institution and a really nice guy in his own right.

I am kicking myself for not being a dork and getting a picture with Ted (sorry, Dad!) - still, it was an experience I won't soon forget. Thank you, Ted!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March (27th) of the Penguins

Spring is in the air, golf clubs are getting warmed up, mullets are in full bloom...wait. Mullets? Uh-oh, you know what that means. It must be time for another thrilling visit from the Pittsburgh Penguins!

In honor of our feathered guests (both on the ice and off) I present :

An Ode to a Mullet
Short on top, the sides as well
A party in the back
The sharpest look is always on
Those clad in yellow and black

You grow with pride your feathered 'do
To represent your city
And those of us with normal hair
You look upon with pity

From Crosby's Crowd to Fleury's Flock
Those curly tendrils flow
But all your hearts and souls belong
To the man called Mario

You toss your locks (and then your beer)
With a high and mighty air
For all bow down to the glory of
That lovely Pittsburgh hair

Special thanks to Amanda for the inspiration...

But enough silliness. It's time to get down to the real nuts and bolts with another round of the $64,000 question - which Caps team will show up today?

Will it be...

...the team that blows a 4 goal lead?
...the team that plays solid defense yet can't score to save their lives?
...the team that phones it in?
...or will it be the elusive creature that is the hard-working, high-scoring, lead-holding team?

Only time will tell. And that, my friends, is what makes being a Caps fan so much fun. This team is, um...well, they're like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

It would be nice if the Caps avoided a sweep and put in a good, solid performance in front of what is sure to be a packed house tonight. The Pens are a tough team, a playoff team fighting for the division lead and home-ice advantage. I think all Caps fans would agree with me that putting a crimp in those plans might make for a delightful Tuesday evening.

First, of course, they have to get past Crosby. appears we've interrupted his meal. Sorry, Sid.
Sorry, Mario.

Then of course there are the other youngsters...

Staal, Malone and Malkin can be lethal in their own right.

And don't forget guys.

The Penguins have a pretty potent power play, ranked 5th in the league.

Wow. Look at that setup!

You also have to get past their muscle...

Laraque, Ruutu and Roberts. And don't discount their offensive ability, either.

The Penguins do have a weakness or two, though. Take their defense for example.

Look at them - they can't even find the puck!

Oh, good. The Penguins' fans are here.

Nice mullets, boys.

Hey, wait!

Where's everyone going?

Oh. Of course.

I should have known.

Hi, Mario.


Monday, March 26, 2007

A Sheldon Can Do Your Income Taxes

We’re again at that point in the season where the Caps have single digits in games remaining on the docket, things are starting to wind down, and inevitably the talk turns to whom the Caps will pick up this offseason. Everyone’s licking their lips as they skim the UFA list and start making up their dream team with pencil and paper...or since we’re in the 21st century, with keyboard and computer screen.

Obviously one of the things the Caps need is a puck-moving defenseman - someone with more than 100 games of experience, someone with a good, accurate shot...someone old enough to vote would be good, too. I know we need it. You know we need it. Management, the coach, the team, even the guy selling those weird cotton candy tubs knows it.

One name that I’ve seen getting tossed around a lot is Sheldon Souray.

People, people, people.

Look, it’s no secret that I’m a Habs girl. I’ve loved that team for seven years, rooted for them, pulled for them in the postseason. And I love Souray, really – alleged wife-beating...aside - but he’s not our guy. I know those offensive numbers are pretty, but think of them as a piece of tin foil to a bird...shiny, distracting, but poisonous.

Yes, the guy can score. Yes, he has a wicked point shot. Yes, he’s setting records in power play points. everyone forgetting he’s supposed to be a defenseman?

He has 24 goals and 36 assists...and he’s a -22. Incidentally, that sparkling +/- puts him 293rd in the league, out of 296 total defensemen. Know who he beat out? Rob Blake in LA and two Flyers, Joni Pitkanen and Derian Hatcher. Now that’s some good company. Oh, and by the way, Pothier, Erskine, Eminger and Clymer all have better +/- ratings than Souray. Now there's something to chew on...

I know there are people out there saying, but he scores goals. The Caps can always use goal-scorers, right?

Not at the expense of defensive responsibility, especially on a blue line that is already one of the thinnest in the league. Not if he takes stupid penalties and can’t pass to save his life. And certainly not at the price Souray will be looking for, rumored to be in Chara country – around $7 million a season. There is a way to be defensively responsible and still produce offense. Look at the top ten +/- defensemen in the league right now. Every single one of them has at least 15 points, some have more. In the case of Lidstrom, a lot more.

+/- isn’t everything, I know that. It is but one stat in the long list of numbers maintained by the league, some of which are meaningless, others which are open for interpretation. And if the other Montreal defensemen’s numbers looked like Souray’s, I might be willing to budge on this. But the Habs have 8 defensemen on their roster, and the closest guy to Souray is Janne Niinimaa with -10. He’s only played roughly half the games this season...and there’s a reason. Mike Komisarek, on the other hand, is a +7. And he’s routinely pitted against the other team’s top line, like on Ovechkin the other night. So is Markov, +2 – with 47 points to boot.

I just think the Caps should be looking for someone who can not only pick up some offensive slack but maybe also teach our young defensemen how to, I don’t know, PLAY DEFENSE?!

Hell, even Gonchar is only -7, and he’s got one more point than Souray. Plus he takes about half the penalties good ol’ Sheldon does. (See? I just used Gonchar as a positive example. That’s how much I don’t want Souray here.)

So who should we get? Well, keep in mind that I have no nose for this kind of thing. I’m horrible at picking out players and would make the worst GM ever, but I’d love to see someone like Brian Rafalski (who needs size when you have the twin towers and Jeff Schultz hulking back there?) or Roman Hamrlik picked up. I like what both guys bring to the ice every night and everything I’ve seen and heard about them points to them being good in the locker room, which as we all know is key.

Just please, PLEASE not Souray.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brett Hull's #1 Fan

I've pretty much stayed away from the whole argument that has surfaced on the heels of Colin Campbell's declaration that the role of fighting should be investigated. Frankly I don't consider myself much of an expert on this particular area and I doubt I could add anything to the discussion that hasn't already been said by people smarter than me. I haven't even read The Code (although it's on my nightstand waiting to be read).

I did, however, happen to tune into ESPN earlier today - right as someone who I had never seen before started talking about fighting and its place in hockey. He sounded very intelligent and pretended to know what he was talking about, but I found myself shaking my head as I listened to him prattle on and on. Among other things he compared Carmelo Anthony's sucker "punch" and the suspension that followed to NHL fights and claimed there was a double standard. He then called fighting in hockey "WWF tactics" and said that keeping it in to increase viewership wasn't working since nobody was watching.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. ESPN commentator, but it's not just a hockey thing. If you put NBA players on skates, gave them sticks, and allowed more contact then just the odd chest may see fighting in basketball. The fact is that hockey is a game where you have 200+ pound men running into each other at high speed. Hitting is part of the game and a good clean check is encouraged - you take that out of the game, you might as well watch curling. When you have that much adrenaline, that much speed, and that much strength, its not surprising that occasionally blows are exchanged.

And to say that the NHL allows fighting simply to increase viewership is completely ridiculous and shows a lack of understanding of both the history and the nuance of the sport. Of course it was ESPN, so why am I surprised?

Anyways, here's where me becoming Brett Hull's #1 fan comes into play. I'll be honest, for all his ability he's never been a player I enjoyed watching, on or off the ice. In fact, I found him downright obnoxious. But since he's become a commentator on NBC I've actually started to enjoy listening to him. He's surprisingly well-spoken, very matter of fact, and often right on target.

So naturally the issue of fighting came up in today's NHL on NBC broadcast (also known as the I Heart Sidney Crosby Show, but that's a different topic for another day) and Hull did a little editorial piece on it. Basically he blasted the media for jumping on the bandwagon, for being so hypocritical as to only cover hockey when fighting is the issue while ignoring everything else about the game.

He said what most real hockey fans have said - it's not the fighting but the cheap shots, sucker punches, and head shots that need to be eliminated. Both he and Ray Ferraro both went on to say the Campbell statement couldn't have come at a worse time, that what the media should be focused on is the fact that 6 teams are currently battling for 2 playoff spots - that's the game, that's hockey.

I honestly couldn't have said it better myself...and I've taken considerably fewer blows to the head.

The fact is that if the American media didn't show every fight - in fact if they didn't show any fights - the US perspective of the game would change dramatically. Show the great hits, fine. Show the amazing saves, fine. Show Crosby's latest goal for all I care, fine. If you watch hockey enough you know that while fighting is a part of the game, it's only a small part. We understand why it is there but it is not why we watch. Show the rest of the country what we already the speed, the grace, the skill of a game played entirely on ice.

Of course, I'd be happy if Comcast would just show the freakin' faceoff every now and then. I'm such a dreamer.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Poor Benny, Take 2

Ben Clymer has taken a lot of heat this season for not playing at the same level as last year - I won't lie, I picked on him a bit. I will say that after returning from his groin injury a week or two ago it seemed like something was a little off, but there's no way I saw this coming:

So let me get this straight...Clymer injured himself in the first game of the year. He then proceeded to play 66 games, injury and all, and still managed to pick up 20 points.


I know that his performance hasn't been great this year and we all certainly expected more from him, particularly after the way he played last season. It is good to have a concrete reason for at least some of his troubles though. I hope this surgery will be the cure to his woes and the jump on rehab will get him back to us in game shape for next season.

Best of luck to Ben on his recovery - looking forward to next year!


The Making of a Classic

Happy Saturday!


I'll Never Tell

My Caps, who have won three of their last nineteen games, against my Habs, who are in a dogfight for 8th place.

Rather than incriminate myself, I choose to plead the fifth.

Enjoy the game.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Movin' On Up

There’s an old saying that goes the darkest hour is just before dawn. Looking back at the history of the NHL or the history of any professional league for that matter, we see that this cliché often rings true. The speed with which franchises can turn their fortunes around can sometimes cause whiplash. One year a team is out of the playoffs early, their record way under .500; the next year they’re making a run at the Cup.

Now there are of course those teams that seem perpetually stuck in darkness, and I know sometimes it seems like the Caps are one of them. But let’s not forget it wasn’t so long ago that this team, while not necessarily a powerhouse or Cup contender, was at least a perennial playoff participant. So was Philly, by the way, something quickly forgotten when you see them wallowing at the bottom of the league. LA also made a splash for many years, albeit thanks to the help of a certain #99.

And it works both ways. Just think back to how pitiful most of the Southeast Division used to be – after all, even the Caps used to beat those teams fairly consistently. It all goes in cycles. Draft position, key free agent pickups, coaching changes, all can be the impetus for a team to rocket to the top...or plummet to the bottom.

I was doing a little digging and I came across Mike Vogel’s
season review from the 2003-04 campaign. Ah, the year of the fire sale. Lowest prices, biggest deals...everything MUST GO! If you've somehow blocked it out, here's a recap:

  • The Caps started the season with a payroll just over $51 million (!!)
  • After winning the season opener, they would drop the next 8 and would never crack the .500 mark
  • First to go was Konowalchuk, who was traded to Colorado for Bates Battaglia and prospect Jonas Johansson
  • On December 10, Bruce Cassidy was replaced by Glen Hanlon as coach of the Caps but it failed to ignite the team
  • By mid-January the team was 13 games under .500 with the second worst record in the NHL
  • Jan 23 - the Caps exorcised some evil, sending Jagr to the Rangers for Anson Carter
  • Feb 18 - Peter Bondra was sent to Ottawa in return for Brooks Laich and a 2nd round pick in 2005
  • Feb 27 - Robert Lang traded to Detroit for Fleischmann, a 2004 1st round pick and a 2006 4th round
  • Mar 3 - Gonchar sent to Boston for Morrisonn, '04 1st and 2nd round
  • Mar 4 - Nylander followed Gonchar to the Bruins, returning a 2nd round pick in 2006
  • Anson Carter was then sent to LA for Jared Aulin, followed by Mike Grier's trade to Jakub Klepis
  • Despite the roster shake-up the Caps won only 2 of their last 14, limping into the lockout-induced break
As I read through the pitiful events of that year and shook my head in amazement at the number of players shipped away in such a short time, I came across this little note tucked away at the end of the piece -
“This spring marks the second straight year that two teams have come from nowhere to compete for the Western Conference championship. Last year the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim improved by 26 points and came within one victory of winning their first Stanley Cup title. The Ducks went up against the Minnesota Wild in the conference championship series. Minnesota improved by 22 points and reached the conference finals in its first-ever postseason appearance. Both Anaheim and Minnesota went from missing the playoffs to competing for the conference title in the span of just a year.”
It’s an interesting stat. It becomes more interesting when you look at the paths of the Flames in 2004 and the Oilers two years later. Then think about the fact that right now the two finalists from last year are on the cusp of being or have already been eliminated from the postseason – which if it happens, as I mentioned before, would be an NHL first. It’s a graphic representation of how quickly things can change.

How quickly? Well, let’s do a little case study, shall we?

- in 2002-03 the Flames finished with a record of 29-36-13-4 for 75 points and 5th place in the Northwest Division, missing the playoffs
- in 2003-04 they finished with a record of 42-30-7-3 for 94 points, good enough for 3rd place in the division. They then completed an improbable playoff run, pushing the Tampa Bay Lightning to Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

- in 2001-02 the Bolts had 69 points, posting a 27-40-11-4 record and finishing 3rd in the division out of the playoffs
- in 2002-03 they finished with 93 points for first in the division, going above .500 for only the second time in franchise history and subsequently going to the postseason for only the second time in franchise history. They lost in the second round to the Devils.
- in 2003-04 Tampa finished with a franchise record 106 points. They posted a record of 46-22-8-6 for first place in the division and rode the wave all the way to the Stanley Cup

- in 2003-04 the Oilers missed the playoffs; the following year they pulled a Calgary and made a surprising run all the way to the Finals, where they also forced a Game 7 against the Hurricanes

- in 2003-04 the ‘Canes finished under .500 with a record of 28-34-14-6, earning 76 points and finishing out of the playoffs
- in 2005-06 Carolina improved to 52-22-8, picking up 112 points for the Southeast Division title and winning the Stanley Cup in 7 games

- in 1995-96 the Sens finished with a record of 18-59-5, earning 41 points and coming in dead last in the Northeast Division
- in 1996-97 they picked up 77 points with a record of 31-36-15, earning their first playoff berth in franchise history

- in 2003-04 the Sabres ended the season with 85 points and in 5th place in the division, missing the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season – that’s the first time they missed the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1985-87and the they longest streak in franchise history
- in 2005-06 they set a franchise record for wins with 52, posting 110 points and losing to the eventual Cup Champs in the conference finals

- the Preds missed the playoffs the first five seasons of their existence
- in 2002-03 they finished 4th in the Central Division with 74 points
- in 2003-04 they improved to 91 points and earned their first playoff berth, losing in the first round
- in 2005-06 they posted a franchise-best 106 points but again lost in the first round
- this season they already have 101 points with 7 games remaining, clinching a playoff spot and battling for the Presidents’ Trophy

- After losing in the conference finals in 2000-01, a season that saw the Penguins finish with 96 points and a record of 42-28-9-3, the Penguins began trading away players, starting of course with Jagr
- from 2001-02 to 2005-06 the Pens finished last in their division and never had more than 69 points over those four years – that includes the last two seasons where they had 58 points each year
- as the 2006-07 season draws to a close the Penguins are fighting for 1st in the division and are on pace for a 3rd-5th place finish

And that brings us to...

- the Caps picked up 19 wins through their first 160 games and missed the playoffs in each of their first 8 seasons, never cracking the 70 point level
- in 1981-82 the Caps had a record of 26-41-13 for 65 points, 5th in the Patrick Division and out of the playoffs for the 8th consecutive year
- in 1982-83 they finished 39-25-16 for 94 points, their first season with a record over .500. They finished 3rd in the division and earned their first playoff berth, kicking off 14 consecutive seasons of postseason appearances
- that streak ended in 1996-97 when the Caps finished 5th in the Atlantic, posting a 33-40-9 record for 75 points
- the next year they bounced back and completed an incredible run to the Finals, where they were swept by Detroit

After this season the Caps will have missed the playoffs 4 of the last 5 seasons. The climb to the top takes patience, good draft history, and a little bit of luck. Most of the pieces are in place, though. The question becomes what will the club do in the offseason and throughout the next season to insure that the evolution continues...


Thursday, March 22, 2007

10 Shots

10 shots.

10 shots?

10 SHOTS????

I just...

I need a vacation.


Nickname Contest #3 / Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Canes

I’m so proud. Really. You all rose to the challenge and made up for the Jeff Schultz debacle with some great there’s only one thing to do. I’m proud to present the first (and probably last) AVFTCS Awards!

Most Popular Nickname:
Ben "Clymer? I Don't Even Know 'er!" (at least 7 by my count)

Second Most Popular Nickname:
Ben “I’d Rather Be Golfing” Clymer
(and other variations)

Best Use of an
Anagram Program:
Biff - Ben "Reel My NBC" Clymer

Most Optimistic Nickname:
Joel - Ben “I'll Be Better Next Year” Clymer

Best Nickname from Someone Who Hates Nicknames:
Biff - Ben “The Messenger” Clymer
[Two awards...does this keep me off
the Whipping Post©?]

Best Groin-Related Joke...and Best Blatant Disregard for the Rule of No Groin-Related Jokes:
Shelby - Ben "At Least I Can't Have Any -17 Children" Clymer

Best (Worst?) Pun:
My father - Ben “Sisyphus” Clymer
Why, you ask? Because he’s “Ben Clymer” up and down that mountain his whole life (drum fill)

...these are the genes I’m working with, folks. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

But in the end there could be only one winner.


Beth - Ben “Contagious” Clymer

Ah, memories. We all of course remember that lovely gut-wrenching disease (literally) that was unleashed by Clymes on his unsuspecting teammates after the holidays. Extra special bonus points to Benny for then passing this superfun bug on to the Habs as well, on which I choose to blame their rapid fall from the standings ladder.

It wins because if ever there was a perfect symbol for Ben’s disastrous’s gotta be an illness that keeps you in, on and around the toilet.

Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

But on to the real fun: our final game against the Stanley Cup Champs (and possible history makers), the Carolina Hurricanes.

So why are they possible history makers? Well, the Oilers are out of the postseason. It's not the first time a finalist has missed the playoffs the next year – it actually happens quite a bit. BUT if the Canes should also fail to make the postseason, it would be the first time in NHL history that both finalists from the previous year missed the cut. That’s a dubious distinction if ever I heard one...and since my Habs are battling with Carolina for that final spot, I say bring on the history!

Meh. We’ll see which team shows up, right?

Just an aside, but I’ve pinpointed the #1 reason the Caps have to get better next year. It’s very simple. I’m so, so, SO tired of reading this kind of quote (courtesy of the
'Canes site): "If somebody can show me an easy game on the schedule, let me highlight it so I can take a breath and the players can take a breath," said Laviolette. "But the bottom line is, there aren't any. You've got to be ready to play no matter who it is."

Or this: "I think when you see a team that's out of the playoffs and trying to play a spoiler, they can take more chances," said Cory Stillman.

Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been hearing that kind of underhanded compliment forever? I want to hear our coach saying “no game is easy”. I want to hear our team saying things like “we can’t look past this team” or “they have nothing to lose and that makes them dangerous”. It’s coming soon, I can feel it – and I can’t wait.

[Wow, am I out of practice! These were harder than usual...]
Possible Lineup for the Caps
8-Alex “Spend, Teddy, Spend!” Ovechkin, 13-Jiri “Not Ready for Primetime” Novotny, 39-Alexandre “Rooster” Giroux
43-Tomas “Flash...of Brilliance” Fleischmann, 24-Kris “Miss” Beech, 28-Alexander “Backcheck? ME?” Semin
21-Brooks “Lovin’” Laich, 15-Boyd “Flash” Gordon, 17-Chris “Checking Line” Clark
87-Donald “Hot (and Bruised) Hands” Brashear, 10-Matt “Benchwarmer” Bradley, 27-Ben “Contagious” Clymer

23-Milan “The Beast” Jurcina, 26-Shaone “With a Rebel Yell, Mo’ Mo’ Mo’” Morrisonn
2-Brian “Turnover” Pothier, 55-Jeff “Peanut” Schultz
44-Steve “Zubie Is Mean” Eminger, 52-Mike “Send Me Back to Hershey” Green

1-Brent “Always a Backup, Never a Bride” Johnson, 37-Olie “Raycroft” Kolzig

Possible Lineup for the Canes
13-Ray “Former Oilers Stick Boy” Whitney, 17-Rod “Beauty Queen” Brind’amour, 11-Justin “Case” Williams
61-Cory “The Next Tim Taylor” Stillman, 12-Eric “Pillow Fight!” Staal, 26-Erik “Old King” Cole
16-Andrew “Cheryl” Ladd, 59-Chad “The War of” LaRose, 24-Scott “Johnny” Walker
77-Anson “Journeyman Defined” Carter, 63-Josef Vasicek, 27-Craig “Gomez” Adams

2-Glen “the Human Bruise” Wesley, 22-Mike “Bathrobe Boy” Commodore
7-Niclas “Off the” Wallin, 8-Tim “Knee-Boy” Gleason
5- Frantisek “Taxi” Kaberle, 45-David Tanabe “Knees”

30-Cam “Beanpole” Ward (day-to-day with a leg boo-boo), 47-John Grahame “Cracker”, 50-Craig “Stanley” Kowalski

Honestly, nothing would make me happier right now than the ultimate spoiler performance by the Caps. A loss by the Canes and a win by the Habs, and suddenly that three team pileup around 8th place becomes a whole different race. GO CAPS!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Zubie the Buffaslug

Not really much to say about this one - the Caps were outplayed by the Sabres and the better team won. The fact that the Caps didn't play all that badly (short of a few miscues as usual and some surprisingly shaky goaltending from Olie) shows how vast the difference is between a first place team and a 14th place team. The Sabres, even with all their injuries, played like a first place team. And can we talk about that pass from Zubrus that set up one of the goals? On the boards, through the legs, perfect. Buffaslug bastard.

What I found fascinating about this game was the fact that it was in essence a graphic illustration of exactly what the Caps have been missing since Zubrus was traded. Ovechkin played a decent game, gained the zone well, held on to the puck...the problem was he had no room. Part of that was simply great positioning by the Sabres but part of that was the fact that his linemates did nothing to help him.

And say what you will about Zubie or even the entire Ovie-Zubie-Clark line, but one of the big reasons it worked was that the other two worked the boards and the bodies and made room for Ovechkin to do his thing. I think we can all agree that both Novotny and Giroux lack the grit needed to play on a line with Ovie and I'm ready for that experiment to end.

I'm not saying that the Caps should go out and throw money at Zubie in the offseason. Maybe he'll be back, maybe he won't. But when they go shopping this summer as they've promised us all they would, that playmaking center at the top of their list should come with the willingness to throw the body around and make space for #8.



Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Sabres

Pop Quiz: What is the scariest sabre?

Nope, not really. Actually kind of cute.

Scarier with our current president, but no.

Any owner of the exact replica is much scarier.

It would be scary if it still existed.
Extinction tends to take the edge off.

That pesky beheading potential lends a certain amount of scariness to this. But that's not it...

Brace yourselves...


Now that's terrifying. *Shudders*


So I have a sneaking suspicion that, back when I actually used to put work into these previews, no one read anything but the nicknames. That may be because I don’t say much worth reading...but who knows. Still, since there are no nicknames (give me a break, I’ve done about 60 of these – how many times can I make the same tired Daniel “Crackers and” Briere joke??) I’m thinking I need some incentive to get people to keep reading.

Whether it’s true or not, it gave me an idea – this is a little game called “how perceptive are you?” In the following preview I’ve hidden the name of a Washington Capital. Find it, e-mail me, and win a fabulous prize.

Actually no, I’m broke. You’ll win a cookie.

Okay, a picture of a cookie.

Er, an e-mail with the word ‘cookie’ in the body.

You know what, you greedy people? Your prize will be pride. There we go. Be like the Caps and play for pride alone. It’s fun!

Here we go...

- Buffalo comes into this game with a tenuous hold on first place in the Eastern Conference, leading the Devils by just 5 points. They’ve also dropped five of their last seven games, including three straight at home.

- Even without Ovechkin scoring in the last two games, the Caps’ offense has been clicking like crazy, outscoring their opponents 12-2 overall. Not only that but they’ve jumped out to the lead in their last three games, outscoring their opponents 6-0 in just the first twenty minutes. Their record over those three? 2-0-1. Now that's just craziness. You mean taking a lead early gives you a better chance of winning?? Do all the teams know about this?

- No offense to Zubie, but I’d love to see someone just knock him on his rear early on in the game. It’s really for my own therapeutic needs (and god knows I need as much therapy as possible) because in my crazy, twisted mind it will solidify him as the enemy and I won't weep everytime I see him. Grrr.

- Creaming Toronto 5-1 was a good start. A 7-1 win over Tampa was also good. But taking on a Buffalo team that remains very tough despite their recent struggles is a whole different challenge. Save for one bad period against the Sabres, though, the Caps have really held their own against high-flying Buffalo, so this should be a good one.

- Look for Semin and Fleischmann to remain on the same line, centered by a slightly improved Kris Beech. It’s hard to argue with the performance those two put on Sunday afternoon, isn’t it?

- You may remember this little incident between Ovechkin and Briere that has marred the last two meetings. It got a few headlines, nothing too major. Anyways the two guys at the center of the storm have had to play together at the All-Star Game since and appear to have buried the hatchet; still, I doubt the fans in Buffalo are about to forgive Ovie quite so quickly. I’d expect a few boos for our little Alex – he seems to thrive on it, though, so maybe he’ll snap his mini-drought.

- Martin Biron was shipped off to bottom-feeding Philly at the deadline and Conklin already got his token game during the final stretch, so I’d expect to see Miller between the pipes. As for the Caps – it’s gotta be Olie. You don’t mess with a hot goalie, and he’s been phenomenal since coming back from injury.

- Each team has scored ten goals against the other over the last two games between the Caps and Sabres. However...that was before the Age of Jurcina. Bring on Le Petit Briere. (I am, however, picturing 2 shots on goal by Zubie. And 15 missed shots.)

- Road wins have proven to be hard to get for the Caps lately, whose woes away from Verizon Center suddenly ramped up after a surprisingly good start to the season. They come into Buffalo seeking just their 11th road win, their 10 so far putting them one ahead of last place buddies Florida and Calgary and even with LA.

Did you find it?

Here’s a hint...have you submitted your nickname yet? Just 12 hours to go before the deadline, get to brainstorming!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ovie's Owie

With all the talk in recent weeks about a lack of respect between players in the NHL, it's nice to see that some guys are still pretty decent. Per Capitals Insider:

AO was hit unintentionally by Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle midway through the third period of the Caps' 7-1 victory Sunday afternoon, just as Alexandre Giroux scored the sixth goal [...] AO, who was sporting a fat lip and small cut near his chin, said that Boyle text messaged Ben Clymer, who relayed the apology.
Um, can I also love that Boyle text messaged Clymer, who passed it along? I don't know why, but I found that adorable. It's nice that Ben still stays friendly with some of his evil old Tampa Bay buddies.

Also from the same Insider post, this quote from Ovechkin, which goes in the growing file of hilarious things he says:
Sometimes I don't know where I go. So [Zubrus] will never know where I'm going. It will be a fun game if he plays against me because I know his moves, his strong side.
Hear that, Zubie? Ovie knows what you'll do...but not what he'll do. If that doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, I don't know what will.


Good Morning, Sunshine

The Caps are currently riding high on a two game winning streak over teams battling for playoff berths and playoff positioning. Tomas Fleischmann is coming off the best game of his professional career, Olie Kolzig is back and better than ever, and Semin has notched another three-goal night.

So let's knock them down and kick them a few times...just for fun. Sound like a good idea? It does if you're Dave Fay, who makes his triumphant return to the Washington Times with yet another whiny, pessimistic piece about the little team that couldn't.

It's just a disgrace that he's allowed to print such absolute drivel and call it journalism, year in and year out. Fay is a legend, an institution who has been around for decades - but that doesn't mean he's allowed to just make stuff up, does it? If Fay was a columnist, a pundit who made his living on pointing out flaws and mocking teams, it would almost be okay. But he's a beat writer, someone assigned by his publication to cover a team with the same journalistic integrity with which one would cover the war in Iraq. It may be frivolous, but it's news and should be treated as such.

I'm 110% sure I can't really add anything to what amounts to a fantastic post over at Japers' Rink, nor do I want to try and compete with that. His analysis is spot on.

I can only say this - the assertion that Backstrom isn't coming over here is unsubstantiated at best (and who around here thinks GMGM won't be flying to Sweden this summer to make sure our new star center is here come October?).

The implication that the Caps won't be spending money this offseason is, if you listen to the owner, the GM, and the players, completely false. It's going to happen, and I think GMGM is going to surprise a lot of people. (PSSSST...George...Chris Drury. GET CHRIS DRURY!!)

The idea that the Caps should be right in step with the Penguins is so wrong I can't even get into it (although JP does an excellent job of explaining why that's not true).

Fay's implication that the Caps should have gone after aging players for one dramatic playoff push at the trade deadline, like Atlanta and Pittsburgh, is absurd. You can keep your Tkachuk's and your Roberts's, and say what you will about their value to their new teams - I think both of them are just happy to be out of bottom-feeding teams, and both are in the last years of their admittedly illustrious careers. That's just not what the Caps need right now. That's not where we are, not yet.

Look, the Caps get picked on by opposition teams, coaches and fans. They get mocked incessantly in those teams' media outlets. When they actually get national coverage they're a running joke, nothing more than a punchline. They don't need local media joining the pack against them, and that constantly seems like what's happening.

Why not focus on the good? Why keep drilling into the ground the fact that the team needs to add outside players when it has been stated over and over and over and over again that that's going to happen come July 1? Why turn off those few casual fans who might have considered going to a game?

For that matter, why knock down a team that for the first time in weeks, months even, is playing with a bit of a spark, a little confidence? How do you think the boys will feel when, after two triumphant and surprising wins over playoff-caliber teams, they read this:

Take Alex 1 and 2 off the roster and this is a team that would have trouble winning in the American Hockey League.
Aside from the fact that its snarky and downright mean, that couldn't be further from the truth. Look at who scored the goals over the last two games. Now look at the roster of the Calder Cup-winning Bears. Yup, they'd have a hard time in the AHL, champions...

Welcome back, Dave.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Note to Self: Use Magic for Good, Not Evil


I've just discovered the secret to make the Penguins lose. Are you ready?

Come in closer...a little closer...

I have to root for them.

It's true! I should have known after all these years of rooting for the Caps, and all these years of them not winning consistently, that it was me. Because the one time - the ONE TIME - I deigned to root for the Penguins, they go and blow it.

This wasn't something I wanted to do, believe me. I certainly didn't enjoy it and I don't plan on doing it again anytime soon. But as everyone knows, my other team is the Canadiens. And the Canadiens find themselves in the middle of a dog race for that 8th and final playoff spot with, among other teams, the Rangers...who were hosting the Penguins. Tonight was New York's game in hand on the Habs, so I had no choice. I need a team that I like to make the postseason, I'm not sure how many other ways I can say it.

Really, I had no choice.


But alas, the evil ones under the leadership of Crybaby failed to hang in there long enough and they lost 2-1 in the dying seconds of regulation. Naturally the game-winning goal was by Jagr...although not really. One of the Penguins' defensemen kind of scored it on his own goalie.

*Sigh*...and my wonderful luck strikes again.

I've been talking about the Penguins too much, I fear. No more. I'm done.

On to happier things, because the Caps are on a two-game winning streak, we're one-fifth of the way through the work week, and the playoffs are almost here.

By the way...have you submitted your nickname yet??


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ovie Update

I just saw the replay of Giroux's goal and the subsequent injury to Ovechkin. It looks like a pretty blatant high stick from Dan Boyle into Ovie's face that was completely undetected by the refs. The chaos in front of the net could have been why the call was missed, but boy, was that ugly. Ovie came up with a mouth full of blood and since he didn't return it was probably pretty serious. I'm sure he'll be fine, but for whatever reason he continues to take lumber to the face with little or no repercussions for the other team.

If this kind of thing continues...let's just say I'm glad he wears a visor.


No "Kee-Kees" Here

The Caps read my blog - I'm flattered!
(But if you didn't, that title may be a bit confusing...)

Okay, that's a lie. They probably don't read it. After all, it wasn't that hard to figure out what you have to do to beat the Lightning. I just had no idea that they would actually be able to put the plan in motion.

Let's recap, shall we?

- Score early - Two goals in the first period sounds good to me, both from Fleischmann who is starting to change my mind a bit; he's playing with a lot of confidence and now has three goals in his last two games.

- Stay out of the box - The Caps gave the Bolts only two power plays all afternoon, one of which was cut short by a minor penalty on Tampa, and they killed off both successfully.

- Don't take the second period off - How does a Semin natural hat trick in the first ten minutes grab ya? The Caps were outshot 11-6 in the middle frame and allowed a goal, but they dominated at least the first half of the period and didn't let up.

- Win in regulation - Yeah, this wasn't exactly a one-goal game. I wasn't too concerned.

- Shut down St. Louis - Martin St. Louis 22:01 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1, 3 shots and a giveaway

- Shut down Richards - Brad Richards 19:40 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1, 3 shots

- Shut down Lecavalier - Vincent Lecavalier 22:17 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, -2, 3 shots and a giveaway

I just love the way they came out and played today, the entire team chipping in for a thoroughly satisfying win over Tampa. Almost everything about it was entertaining - 2 goals by Flash, a hat trick by Semin, Gordon and Giroux getting on the board again, the midget and his little friends staying off the board, and of course, the rotating goaltenders (it's Holmqvist...wait, no, now it's Denis...oh wait, here comes Holmqvist again...hehehe).

Assorted goodies:
- Mike Green actually had almost 15 minutes of ice time and he played pretty well - even a little defense!
- Clymer on the other hand had kind of a rough game, poor guy. Only one shift in the first period, too, so I'm not sure if he's just not 100% yet (I'm hoping that's all it was)
- O'Brien was sniffing around for a fight from the second period on, trying to jumpstart his team. Clarkie wouldn't bite, but naturally Bradley did...not a bad tilt, although it seemed to give the Bolts a bit of a spark as they scored shortly after
- Grrr, I wanted Olie to get a shutout. I guess it's just not to be this season
- This was the second straight game w/ goals from Semin, Giroux, Fleischmann, and Gordon...the only difference was no goal from Beech, although he did pick up a couple of assists
- The Caps have outscored their opponents 12-2 in their last two games and Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet both times. Odd.
- Speaking of Ovie, he took a high stick of some kind late in the game after Gordon's goal and left the ice in a huff, dripping blood. I didn't see it happen, but he seemed pretty upset and understandably so...

Tampa Bay, like Toronto before them, just looked flat for most of the game. They got a little burst after Semin's hat trick and started launching a minor comeback (which is more than I can say for the Leafs). It sputtered pretty quickly thanks to continued good positioning by the Caps and Olie being Olie. That's the one good thing about being at the bottom of the league - teams start to look past you, take you for granted. To their credit, the Caps again took advantage of this. You'd think after falling behind by a couple of goals they'd figure out the Caps aren't going quietly into the night, but I guess they're just not that bright.

The Caps are back on the road this week, with three days off before a rumble in Buffalo with our old pal Zubie and his new pals...then it's on to Carolina for the final matchup with the 'Canes, followed by a trek into Montreal against my Habs. Don't look now, but the Caps head out on a 2 game winning streak! You have to love that.

Not that it matters anymore, but THAT'S 2 POINTS, BABY!


Gameday Preview: Caps vs. Lightning

Another Southeast Division showdown! Can you FEEL the excitement?? This time is extra special, too, because the arena should be packed full of dozens of people who aren't hungover from St. Patty's Day...or home watching NCAA basketball...or just staying away from the Caps on principle. Should be a rockin' good time!

Here are a few tips and tricks for the Caps to keep in mind as they take on the Bolts this afternoon (they're blurry, but you get the idea).

- Score early:

- Stay out of the box:- Don’t take the second period off.
- Win in regulation: - Shut down St. Louis: - Shut down Richards:
- Shut down Lecavalier:
- Shut down Lecavalier:- Shut down Lecavalier.

Fun Facts (courtesy of these fine sites):

- Daytime lightning is difficult or impossible to see under local sun and/or hazy conditions.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is quite common for people to be struck by lightning, and in fact lightning is a very poor killer. While people do get killed by lightning, most survive it.
- Still, lightning kills more people each year on average than
hurricanes and tornadoes combined.
- A lightning stroke begins with a faint predischarge, called the
leader, which goes from the cloud to the ground. The leader establishes a path for the highly luminous return stroke (what you really see) which propagates from the ground up to the cloud. The first stroke of a flash is usually preceded by a "stepped leader", so called because it appears to progress in discrete steps (about 100 segments, each 50 m long) from cloud to ground. The subsequent strokes are preceded by a "dart leader" which smoothly follows the path of the previous return stroke (and is about 10 times faster).

- Safety Tips (courtesy of the National Weather Service):

  • The safest place commonly available during a lightning storm is a large, fully enclosed, substantially constructed building, e.g. your typical house, school, library, or other public building. [Verizon Center - Check!]
  • Proceed from higher to lower elevations [so much for the Cheap Seats...]
  • Once inside, stay away from corded telephones, electrical appliances, lighting fixtures, ham radio microphones, electric sockets and plumbing. [Um...there’s none of that in a modern NHL arena, right??]
  • Avoid tall, isolated objects like trees, poles, and light posts. [Or Jeff Schultz, Milan Jurcina, and Shaone Morrisonn.]
  • Do not remain in open vehicles like farm tractors, cabless construction machinery, riding lawnmowers and golf carts [No zamboni-driving. Got it.]
  • If circumstances or a series of bad decisions [AHEM, Steve Eminger...or Brian Pothier...or Mike Green...or...anyone in a Caps uniform] have found you outside of a shelter, far removed from a safer place when lightning is occurring, there are still measures to be taken.
  • If lightning is about to strike, it will sometimes provide a very few seconds of warning. Sometimes your hair may stand on end, your skin will tingle, light metal objects will vibrate or you will hear a crackling or "kee-kee" sound. [Incidentally, "kee-kee" is the scientific term...] If this happens and you're in a group, spread out so there are several body lengths between each person. [It’s Verizon Center, so, again...check.]
  • Once you've spread out, use the lightning crouch. Put your feet together, squat down, tuck your head, and cover your ears. [Oh, the Mike Green position!]
  • When the immediate threat of lightning has passed, continue heading to the safest place possible. [i.e., the golf course.]

More Fun Facts:

Ben Clymer won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.

And speaking of Ben Clymer...have you submitted your nickname yet?