Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Three more games...

Caps thankfully only have three more games left before the second season starts.  They played a good 3rd period against the Atlanta Thrashers the other night generating 4 goals in the last twenty to win 6-4.  Apparently, Coach Boudreau yelled at them for their lazy playing in the first two periods and they finally woke up!

Although the Caps have a win-loss record that I can't argue with and are the winners of the Southeast Division for the second year in a row they've played with a lack of energy over the last month or so.  The problem with that is that they still have something to play for and thats 2nd place in the Eastern Conference if they can stay ahead of the New Jersey Devils.  Today that means that the Caps would play the Montreal Canadiens versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It would be nice for the Caps to beat the Penguins in a playoff series, but my biggest hope is that the Caps get out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Caps are certainly capable of making a playoff push, but it depends on which Caps team shows up on any given day.  The one that's beaten the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins 3 times out of 4 (an OT loss) or the one that plays down to their level of competition and loses to teams near or at the bottom of the standings.  The team that can't seem to battle effectively against the gritty physical style of play that the Flyers play (also known as playoff hockey style) or the team that beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.  The team that makes blind cross ice passes that end in giveaways or the team that cycles the puck effectively for another top of the NHL leader board power play goal.   We'll find out soon enough.

Regardless of which team shows up in the playoffs, I've enjoyed the regular season. Some of my favorite highlights:

  • Alex Ovechkin's goal against the Habs where he banked the pass to himself and slide on the ice and got the puck to go into the net.  There are too many Ovie highlights to name as he is always a joy to watch on the ice.  I consider myself privileged to get to watch him night in and night out.
  • Participating in the standing ovation for Brian Pothier's first goal after a 14-month recovery from a concussion and eye problems.
  • Watching the rookie Karl Alzner play smart hockey as a call up for the too often injured Caps.  He has a bright future in the NHL.
  • Seeing Mike Green break a defensive NHL record for goals scored in 8 games in a row, plus seeing him pot 30 goals after missing 13 games due to an injury earlier in the season.  That injury gave me a great appreciation for Green's transition game as the Caps suffered without him on the blue line.  He may well end up being the Norris trophy winner this year, or at the very least, a runner up.
  • Watching two young rookie net minders make their impressive NHL debuts.  Simeon Varlamov and Michel Neuvirth make it easy for me to believe that the Caps have a long term solution to man the net.
  • Seeing Jose Theodore go from downright horrible his first two months to solid and, at times, spectacular in net where he often compensated for the Caps defensive lapses.
  • Following Nicklas Backstrom's development from a rookie into an elite class center in only his 2nd season. 
  • Cheering for the many, many Hershey Bears that made their NHL debuts and ongoing appearances with the big club as the Caps suffered through a rash of injuries early in the season.  They kept the Caps at the top of the league and it's testimony to the advantage of sharing playing systems between your AHL and NHL teams.   
  • Watching Alexander Semin becoming a force on the penalty kill.  He also played with such intensity early in the season that he was tearing up the league in scoring until he got injured.  Seeing him fight made me laugh for two days...sorry Semin, it's meant with affection.  
  • Cheering for the role guys, like Brooks Laich and Matt Bradley, who play their hearts out every shift.
  • Hoping to see more of next year....Milan Jurcina's slap shot with better accuracy, Tomas Fleischmann's scoring and Eric Fehr's ability to use his big body to crash the net and score more. 
BoldThe Caps finish out their season on a SE Division road tour starting with the Atlanta Thrashers again tonight, then, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to close the season out.

The second season is coming...time to step it up. 

Let's go Caps!

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