Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1 point losses then 7 goals

Finally, the Caps put together a game to cheer about against the Toronto Maple Leafs. My other half, Jeff, said something like "oh, it's a boring game" when he walked in the door during the 3rd period. I'll take 7 goal games by the Caps any day of any hockey season, but even more so, when those tallies result in a resounding Caps win after 2 more losses by 1 goal to Vancouver (yes, Luongo still has the Caps number) and St. Louis.

And, boy would I hate to be a net minder in Toronto. Their fans were merciless, taunting their goalie with cheers when he made ordinary saves, and booing in general.

The best Caps in the Toronto game:
  • Ovie with 2 more goals, 1 on the power play (yippee) and great defensive playing. He was the 1st star of the game. His quote in the Toronto Sun after the game when asked who could stop him cracked me up. "Nobody can stop me....just me." This is one of the many reasons I'm glad Ovie is a Capital instead of Sydney Crosby...he's a character.
  • The checking line mates Boyd Gordon and Matt Pettinger are playing awesome hockey and were rewarded with their first goals of the season against Toronto. Petti's came on the power play (double yippee).
  • Kozlov and Nylander had good games, recording 2 assists each and were rewarded with 2nd star and 3rd star respectively.
  • Brian Sutherby, out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, recorded his 1st goal and skated aggressively, stirring things up and giving the Caps a boost.
  • Matt Bradley had a short-handed goal and an assist and also played aggressively.

The worst moment of the game - Caps captain Chris Clark taking Ovie's slap shot to the ear. It required 60 or so stitches. This is the same Chris Clark who took a puck to the mouth and continued playing his shift last year. He is an amazing captain and a gritty hockey player that has blossomed in Washington. Clarkie apparently flew to NY to be with the Capitals today so I'm hoping we see him tomorrow night. I have no doubt that he wants to play because he always does.

Apparently, the team had a little team meeting before this game. It seems to have set a good tone for the game. Let's see if the Caps can keep it up against the New York Rangers tomorrow night.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Thank you Clarkie!

In my "the good, bad and ugly" post, I mentioned that many people have wondered, where has Chris Clark been this year? Well, after shuffling the lines on Wed in the game against Tampa Bay, Chris ended up back on the top line with Ovie and scored two goals. We like that. We like it even more when the Caps win 5-3. Dave Stekel recorded his first NHL goal, Brooks Laich netted a goal and Ovie hit an empty netter when the Caps were protecting a one goal lead.

The power play still sucked big time, going 0-4 and dropping its effectiveness to 4 for 39 or 10% for this season. Teams do not go to the playoffs in this NHL without scoring on the power play so the Caps need to figure out the power play problem and soon!

Tonight, dreaded net minder Roberto Luongo and Vancouver come into town tonight. Luongo has the Caps number (he has my team's number in EA hockey so I can relate LOL), plus the Sedin twins are playing great hockey for Vancouver so the Caps defense will also have their hands full. But, hey Brian Pothier is a +5 for this year (yes, you read that right) so we'll see how the blue liners fare against the Sedin twins.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Different Year, Same Results

As a fan who hates the Pittsburgh Penguins more than any other hockey team (the Buffalo Sabres are a close second), it galls me when they once again beat the Caps. The same thing happened on Sat. The only good news is that the Caps played with a little more passion and lost by 1 goal in a 2-1 game. But, it's their 4th loss in a row and that means I'm still "on the ledge" about the Cap's ability to make the playoffs this year.

Tarik El Bashir's article from the Post yesterday is titled the "Caps are Goal Oriented" about Glen Hanlon shuffling the lines to find some offensive chemistry. There is talent on this team. Hanlon needs to figure out how to make that talent perform. Let's hope he does, sooner rather than later.

The Tampa Bay Lightning come to town tonight.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm back on the ledge until further notice

Mike Vogel the Caps writer had a blog post the other day "Come in Off the Ledge" about fans ready to write off the Caps season after only 5 games. After last night's pathetic game against the New York Islanders, I'm staying on the ledge until the Caps prove to me that they want to play hockey this year.

The Caps played maybe 20-minutes of aggressive hockey last night against the Islanders and lost 5-2. Here's my wrap up.

The good:
  • Ovie played with fire on both ends of the ice again. He deserves far better than this Caps team is giving him and it's clear to me he wants to win.
  • Mike Green also showed me he wants to win hockey games. His spectacular end-to-end and aggressive playing is a huge improvement over last year and he's still a youngster. Either Laughlin or Koken mentioned Bobby Orr's name in reference to Green which shows how much he's improved.
  • Niklas Backstrom, the 19-year old rookie, is showing his vision on the ice every night. His pass to Flash with an Islander on his back for the 2nd goal was impressive. He's going to be a very good hockey player.
  • Matt Pettinger clearing the puck out of the zone on an Isles power play and then keeping the puck in their end on the boards with several Isles players fighting for the puck on top of him. He burned up 20-seconds on their power play.

Anyone notice that all "the goods" are from the younger players.

The bad:

  • Olie had a lousy night, but I never question his motivation to win.

The ugly:

  • Chris Clark, where are you, besides getting bad penalties at bad times?
  • Caps power play is the most pathetic thing I've ever seen. Playing "dump the puck" and losing it isn't a winning strategy.
  • Penalty kill was a strong point during the first three games, but not now.
  • Motivation - the Caps don't look like they want to play or win. Hanlon & Clark, motivate this team.

The excuses - I'm tired of hearing this team will be better with Boyd Gordon and Alexander Semin. Of course they will, but if the Caps can't win a game without 2 of their players, they have no depth at all and the rebuild isn't over.

The Caps play the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night. I'm not even sure if I can watch. Regardless...Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Ouch...Rangers, Sabres make Caps look bad

Will the real 2007-2008 Washington Capitals please stand up? Are they the team that effectively controlled the puck and clogged up the neutral zone in the first two games against the Thrashers and Hurricanes for wins? Or, are they the team that ineffectively played dump & chase, took stupid penalties, didn't convert on power play opportunities and lost 3-1 to the Rangers and 7-3 to the Sabres over the weekend? It's too early to tell at this stage, but these last two losses convinced me this team still has a lot to do to improve and make it into the playoffs this year. The Caps played terribly this weekend and it looks like they've gotten progressively worse since squeaking out a win at the Islanders in their 3rd game of the year.

Yes, the Rangers are supposed to be a really good team this year and the Sabres don't seem to have lost a step with their offseason departures, but the Caps flaws were on full display, like those 53 shots on goals during the Sabres game. That stat reminded me too much of last year's team. Some fans on the message boards say things like, "it's only two games against good teams, the sky isn't falling yet" while other fans say things like, "these losses point to more serious problems". Count me in with this second group because if the Caps are still allowing 53 shots on goal in any game, then, Houston, we've got a problem.

The only good news from this weekend is that Ovie netted his 100th goal in just 167 games. He's playing like a monster out there. I'd like to see that much hustle and motivation from other Caps.

The Caps get a break until Thursday when they play the Islanders again at home. Bring your A-game Caps.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Caps love by the media

Caps rarely get any attention from the media, but this year, after a 3-0 start, there's been some positive media:


Caps battle the NY Rangers tomorrow night. They just lost a tough one to the Islanders so I expect a tough game.

Let's go Caps!

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Ted's blogglings....

The NY Islanders have started a "Blog Box" where they allow bloggers to participate in the media events and sit in the press box. This has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere as one blogger, Eric McErlain from Off Wing Opinion thinks that this is the Isles way of controlling the new media and limiting negative comments from bloggers, particularly, "fan" bloggers. James Mirtle, a blogger and sports journalist, in a rebuttal to McErlain's position says the following:

"On the flip side, I also don't see why others can't enjoy the experience as hockey fans, whoop it up and pump out whatever they want on their blogs. (Besides, for all of the coverage we're seeing piped out of the Capitals' press box these days, how critical a voice are we getting? Here was a team that was a bottom feeder last season that offered plenty of opportunities to be dumped on, but did we really see that from Ted Leonsis's new legion of blogglings?)"

I commented on Mirtle's blog and told him he's free to read my fan blog and check out just how critical of this team I can be....

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

2 more points, thanks to Olie

Olie got the 1st star for the 2nd Capital's game in a row and it was well deserved. The Caps were outshot 31-12 and escaped the Islanders with a win only on the back of Olie the goalie. The "puck possession strategy" didn't work nearly as well yesterday as it did against the Thrashers/Hurricanes this past weekend. A former Capital and defenseman, Brendan Witt, stymied the Caps quite a bit yesterday.

The goal scorers for the game...Kozlov off a beautiful set up pass from Ovie and Brooks Laich on a play that Nylander made happen via a shot from Pothier. I give credit to Laich for being aware and getting the rebound from the Pothier shot and shooting it around Dipietro before he could react.

On special teams for this game, the Caps kept their penalty kill streak of no goals being scored against them, but they did not convert on their powerplay opportunities so that area still needs some help.

Great tidbits from Tarik El-Bashir's blog about the game:
  • Dipietro thinks Kozlov dented his glove with his shot. Joe B. and Craig L. mentioned that Dipietro kept staring at his glove after that shot.
  • The Caps 12 shots on goal was the lowest total in a victory EVER for this franchise. Thanks again Olie!

In other Caps news:

Tarik's article in the Washington Post on Ovie's new commitment to defense is a good read. Ovie's focus on becoming a top two way player is very good news for the Capitals!

The Caps have a slight break and return to action against the Rangers on Friday.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Fun at the VC with Vancouver Fans

My other half Jeff & I had the pleasure of sitting with several die-hard hockey fans from Vancouver at the home opener. They were in town on vacation. They became Caps fans (yes, they are Vancouver fans) for the night and yelled "let's go Caps" as loudly as we were, high fived me on Ovie's and Jurcina's goals and chanted for Olie in the 3rd period.

One of them said to us, "I like Ovie better than Sydney Crosby. He hits." Boy, does he ever and we like Ovie better, too!

This was such a completely pleasant experience versus sitting next to Buffalo or Pittsburgh fans that I will raise a toast to Vancouver this season.

Come visit us anytime.

Let's go Caps.

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4 out of 4 points and a whole new team

Wow. The Caps started the season by controlling the puck the entire first period at the Atlanta Thrashers. Nylander scored first while Backstrom got his first NHL point on that goal and then Erskine made a beautiful shot to make it 2-0 in the 1st period. The Caps backed off in the 2nd period as evidenced by Atlanta's lone goal in that period, but in the 3rd period Kozlov scored on a puck via assists from Mike Green and Ovie. That sealed the deal. 2-points down.

Backstrom looked comfortable in his NHL debut, Brent Johnson played solid in goal and the Ovie, Kozlov, Flash line appeared to be everywhere. The Caps had 40 shots to Atlanta's 29. Yes, you read that right. It was so often the reverse last year.

On, Saturday the Caps won again, beating Carolina 2-0 in the home opener and it was a beautiful thing to watch at the VC. The Caps dominated on offense and controlled the puck pretty much the entire game. This time the Caps had 33 shots to Carolina's 22. Half of Carolina's shots came in the 3rd period, they only had 2 in the 1st period. I've been reading a lot that the Caps want to play this kind of puck control offense as it plays to their strengths. Well, the strategy seems to working wonders so far. (I know, it's only 2 games so that's not a forecast). The Carolina coach seems to agree in his quote in this Washington Post article. "I thought Washington was on their toes all night -- offensively, defensively, loose pucks," Carolina Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Every time a puck came up, no question, it was their puck." 4 points down!

Ovie scored a beauty of a goal in the 1st period and Kozlov and Erskine assisted. Ovie's skates are smoking right now. He is everywhere, hitting, shooting and playing much better defense than he did last year (he's +2 with Kozlov so far versus -19 at the end of last season). Milan Jurcina scored the 2nd goal on a power play with Semin and Backstrom assisting. Semin is back and played 16-minutes and change. Mike Green looks great and Tom Poti is a tremendous help already as the power play quarterback and on the blue line. Olie also played inspired hockey and got the shutout. He had a splits save in the 3rd period and looked great in the few times he was tested.

Now, how in the world do I temper my expectations? This team is playing with fire and working together. It's so exciting...

The Caps visit the Islanders at 2:00 today and I'm annoyed that the NHL think people actually get Columbus Day off and can watch the game. I can't but will catch part of it on the radio.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2 more days till the puck drops!!

For Caps fans, this season is one of the most highly anticipated I've seen in a long time. And count me out as one of those fans who salivated with hope before the season that brought Jaromir Jagr to Washington. I was never a fan of Jagr's and Washington teams, in general, don't do well when they try to buy championships by buying superstars...remember Michael Jordan and Deon Sanders.

So, my challenge is to temper my expectations for this team. I'm trying, but I still expect this team to make the playoffs...if the team stays healthy, if Olie plays well, if the team chemistry gels like I expect it to. Team chemistry is so important in hockey and I'm encouraged by what I've seen and heard in preseason and at training camp. I'm also encouraged by the positive team attitude I've heard about from Chris Clark during the town hall session at Kettler and by other items I've read in the media. This team wants to play hard and wants to win. That's key.

But, how will the Caps actually perform this year? Here are the "predictions" for whatever they're worth:
  • ESPN's preseason power rankings here have them coming in 25th out of 28 teams in the NHL and behind every team in the SE division. The Caps are an unknown quantity this season, but 25th which is well out of playoff contention? My expectations are definitely higher than that. Of course, many hockey fans could care less what ESPN says as hockey isn't their focus.
  • Tarik El-Bashir is predicting the Caps to finish 8th in the Eastern Conference which would put them in the top 16 not at 25th. I like seeing predictions where the Caps get into the playoffs and Tarik knows a lot more about the Cap's chances than ESPN since he's the beat writer for the Post.
  • Adam Proteau, blogger at Hockey News, picks the Caps to win the Southeast Division as the "worst-to-first" shocker this year. His final quote, "Call it a hunch, but I bet they’ll gel into one of the league’s swiftest, most offensively dangerous teams rather quickly – and drop many a jaw in the process." My hopes aren't that high.

So, there you have it...will the Caps win a division title, squeak into the playoffs as a #8 seed or tread water from last year and come in 25th overall? Only time will tell, but the positive vibes buzzing around the air in Washington make me smile.

Let's go Caps!

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