Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That was a fun hockey game to watch

I'm a happy Caps fan this morning as they came out on top in a battle against the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2 after being down 2-0.

I like it when:
  • the Caps net minder, formerly known as Jose Threeormore, plays lights out in net.  His glove hand snatched pucks out of the air in between crowds of bodies last night.  Theodore beat the penalty shot caused by Tom Poti.  Caps fans couldn't ask for more from their goalie. He deserved his first star of the game after those 41 saves.
  • the Caps come out flying and play aggressive hockey. But, I'm not going to talk about the patheticness of the power play right now (okay, they got 1).  It's happy day,
  • Alex Ovechkin scores two goals and throws Mike Richards into the boards on 1 of his 5 hits.
  • Alexander Semin, recently returned from injury, catches Ray Emery napping for a goal.
  • David Steckel kicks butt in the faceoff dot, with a dominating 63% of wins on 16 draws in the defensive zone.  Coach Boudreau played him a lot on 24 shifts to take 27 faceoffs.
  • Nicklas Backstrom gets a goal and three assists for a 4 point night and 2nd star of the game. 
  • Chris Clark shows the grit that made me appreciate him so much, before all of his injuries. The Caps need him back to his former self.
  • Keith Aucoin plays like the spark plug he can be.
  • Jeff Schultz hits somebody and is all around playing better.
It was a good night to be a Caps fans.

Caps visit the Atlanta Thrashers tomorrow night.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

The role of luck in winning

Hockey fans, players, coaches, and anyone involved in the game are typically very superstitious because luck is a part of sports.  In fact, my boss happened to mention to me that he watched the Caps lose recently and worried that his bad luck as a fan of the Wizards was transferring to the Caps. I promptly told him he couldn't watch any more games live and the Caps have won every game since.  See, it's true.

Good luck plays a part in any team that slogs its way through an 82 game season, followed by an even more intense second season, and a final win to hoist the Stanley Cup.  The Caps got a little bit of luck on Saturday night by ekeing out a win against the rebuilding New York Islanders, even when no one named Alex scored.  The Caps still gave the Isles a standings point by not putting the game away in regulation.  They played a bad game so they were lucky.

The power play went 0-4 again.  The Caps lost 70% (yes, you read that right) of their faceoffs which is downright miserable.  Alex Ovechkin was held without a goal for the second game in a row. Caps were lackluster and slow and didn't looked like they cared that they were playing a hockey game.

But, the Caps did have heroes.  Brooks Laich and Mike Green, 1st and 3rd stars, respectively, won the game with Green's goal coming in the 3rd period to tie it up and Laich netting the overtime game winner one minute into the extra period.  I'll also throw in Jose Theodore as the other hero, as he's playing well in net and keeping the Caps in it, at times.

I hope the Caps bring their A game to the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night. The Flyers play them tough.

Let's go Caps! 

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Schultz has a 3 point night, seriously?

You know it's a weird night in Caps land when your scorers are not named Alex, but instead are named Jeff Schultz, Chris Clark, Eric Fehr, Alexandre Giroux (okay, one Alex) and Matt Bradley.   The Caps also got lucky which is in itself weird.  Luck usually runs against them, not for them, but when Jeff Schultz's 150 foot shot took a weird bounce on the soft ice and popped over the netminder's shoulder for a goal, that was lucky.

On the down side, they were lucky to win the game, at all.  Up 5-2 in the third period, the Caps let Atlanta get back into the game with goals from Maxim Afinogenov and Ilya Kovalchuk.  The Caps also went 0-7 on the power play which is just horrendous.  Contending teams don't play that sloppily and the Caps need to step it up.  Some will say it's only October, but I don't want to hear excuses, period.  

Other observations:
  • I love Mike Knuble.  I can't believe he used to be a Flyer, but I love him anyway.  It's fun to watch him muck it up in front of the net and try to shove pucks through the goaltender multiple times.  Too bad he ended up kicking in that one puck.
  • Eric Fehr's goal came on a beautiful outlet pass by Jeff Schultz (yes, I said Jeff Schultz and he played a great game last night and not just because of his scoring).  Fehr's goal was a beauty, streaking down the ice and shooting it over the left shoulder of the goaltender. I'm glad to see Fehr score.
  • Alex Ovechkin spent his night tied up by Pavel Kubina.  He is human and there are some players who play him really well.   He did not have a great night and he also got fined for slew footing.  I just hope that doesn't add fuel to the fire that he's a dirty player because it didn't appear as if there were any intent to injure on that play. 

Caps visit the New York Islanders tonight.

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009


Both of Alex Ovechkin's goals came in the first period against the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center last night.  I enjoyed the goal where Brendan Morrison lobbed it into the air towards Ovie where it landed at his feet.  

The Caps should have then put away a team that is struggling on offense, ranked 25th in the league in points. But, no, they let up and the Predators tied it up late in the third with goals from Shea Weber and one where James Dumont took advantage of a bad clearing attempt by Jeff Schultz.

The game went to overtime and then to the dreaded shootout...not the Cap's forte and not Alex Ovechkin's forte either, but his faking Dan Ellis out and then blowing it past the out of position goalie made me smile.  

Semyon Varlamov, starting in place of the injured Jose Theodore, played a decent game and stopped all 3 of Nashville's shots during the shootout, including a tough shots from Martin Erat, to seal the win. Varly appeared more comfortable after his two shaky starts and that was good to see.

A disturbing statistic I noted....faceoffs. Overall, the Caps won 46% of their faceoffs and that's only because David Steckel won 56% of his and Brendan Morrison won 50% of his, but Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich with 33% and Keith Aucoin with 25% are unacceptable numbers.

I want to see the Caps play like they played against San Jose.  That is the most complete game they played all season.  Great teams show up every night.  That's what I expect the Caps to do.

Caps head to Atlanta on Thursday.

Let's go Caps!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Best 3rd Period This Season

The Washington Capitals played the 3rd period tonight like it mattered.  Gee, sometimes that makes the difference between wins and losses so I'm happy they stuck with it and won this game considering they've lost three in a row.

My highlights:
  • Alex Ovechkin breaks a long losing streak against San Jose and scores on Evgeni Nabokov, not once, but twice off of Mike Knuble.  The one puck that Knuble handled and back-handed to Ovie for the first score was a thing of beauty.
  • Prior to that, Alexander Semin started the scoring in the first period by scoring off of a Nicklas Backstrom  pass to him from across the crease in between Brooks Laich and a Shark defender.   It was sick.
  • I wish every Washington Capital played with the heart and hustle that Quintin Laing exhibits every single time he's on the ice.
  • What happened to Jose Theodore?  He's been playing like a man in the zone and, now, he's hurt.  Arghhh.....  Semyon Valamov played capably in Theo's absence and I'm glad to see him get the chance.
  • Matt Bradley - fan favorite - grabs goal number two.
  • Brendan Morrison looks like a good pick up to me.  We'll see, as the season progresses, but I like the way this guy is playing and he can keep up with Ovie.

For the first time in 12 tries, the Caps beat the Sharks.  Yeah.  

The Nashville Predators are coming to town on Saturday.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Caps...the details matter

Ugh.  The Caps don't look like a team with high aspirations for the post season, so far. They started out on fire, while I worked my tail off in Las Vegas and couldn't watch.  Caps started out with a 4-1 victory over Boston and 6-4 win over Toronto which wasn't as close as it sounds.  Tonight, they blew it against the New Jersey Devils and lost in a 3-2 shootout.

Some observations:
  • Jose Theodore's playing inspired in net.  He's kept the Caps in games and had some unbelievable saves in the 3rd period tonight.
  • Alex Ovechkin leads the league in points, but needs to help this team take the next step.
  • Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison more than make up for an oft-injured Sergei Fedorov (don't get me wrong, I love the guy and will never forget his $4M goal to keep the Caps in the playoffs last April, but the Caps needed a net crasher) and Viktor Kozlov.  Knuble brings that crease crashing forward the Caps have desperately needed.  Morrison plays like a guy with a 1-year contract, trying to impress.
  • Sloppy penalties, sloppy penalties, slopping penalties.  Need I go on.
  • I'd much rather have Mike Knuble on the top line than Alexander Semin.   See bullet #3 - Caps need his net crashing on the top line and I like having a scorer on the 2nd line, too.
  • I'm glad Quintin Laing is a Cap.  He gives it his all every single night and he's fun to watch when he's blocking shots even when you're wincing at the impact.
  • The rest of the forwards need to step it up....hello secondary scoring anybody?
  • Coach Bruce Boudreau needs to learn how to light a fire under this team and fast.
  • The defense - sigh - it doesn't seem to be any better than last year. The seasoning isn't helping.  The forwards need to learn to play two-way hockey, too, and now.  That's what wins playoff hockey games.
A mediocre start based on what little I've seen, so far, and what I've read.

Now, comes a couple of usually troubling West Coast teams to taunt the Caps, starting with the San Jose Sharks.

Let's go Caps!


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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lots to Laich about Laich

Brooks Laich taught me patience with young, still developing hockey players, but not right away.   First, there was my constant screaming at him the first year he played 73 games for the Caps in 2005-2006.  He's awful, I thought constantly, berating a 22-year old that played 10 games in the AHL that year.   I wasn't the only one.  The howls from the message boards and long time Caps fans rang out often about Laich that year.   

This happened about the time that my Caps hockey fandom went into overdrive.  I've been a Caps fan forever, but that year a certain Russian hockey player became a Capital, and I couldn't contain my excitement about the Caps.  I understood Ted Leonsis's and GMGM's plan about rebuilding and developing from within, but I'd been waiting for this team to win a Cup for 31-years at that point.  I was and still am impatient for that elusive Cup.

The year of Laich's mostly full time debut was the year Alex Ovechkin won the Calder Cup and made the NHL first team all stars.  Although Ovie shined with his 53 goals, including "The Goal", the Caps were awful finishing in the cellar of the Southeast division with 70 points. 

Brooks's second year he only had 18 points, but looked a little bit more relaxed playing in the bigs.  In 2007-2008 he had his breakout year under replacement coach, Bruce Boudreau, who had coached Laich in Hershey.  He broke the 20-goal mark with 21 goals and he also had 14 assists for 34 points.  That year, Brooksie became the subject of fan adulation on the message boards in a legendary thread that went on for hundreds of pages extolling the mythic like powers of the hockey player named Brooks Laich.

This season, so far, Brooksie is playing like a man possessed, averaging 2 points per game and starting with a 2-goal game that garnered him that night's second star.  He appeared briefly on the NHL's goal leader board to the delight of Caps fans.  He plays a gritty, muck it up game and the Caps desperately need that.  I see him only getting better because he's extremely competitive and plays hard every night.  Brooks will also get to learn from veteran Mike Knuble, who plays a similar game, and that will be invaluable for him.

Brooksie, at age 26, is already a leader on the ice and off.  He leads by example, by playing hard and by working hard.  I'm looking forward to watching him play this season.  

And, thank you Brooksie, because I'm much more patient with young developing players now.  Okay, not with all of them! I'm only human.

Caps host the New York Rangers tomorrow night.  No doubt they'll be looking for revenge after Sergei Fedorov sent them home last playoffs.

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm missing hockey in Las Vegas

Some people might appreciate being in Las Vegas when hockey season starts, but I'm not one of them.  In fact, if I never saw Vegas again, I wouldn't care.  It's just not my kind of place.  

Instead, I'm desperately missing hockey and can't believe I missed seeing the Caps win their first two even if they decided to slack off in the 3rd period against Toronto tonight.  It's killing me.

I'll be back home on Tuesday...thankfully.

Let's go Caps!