Thursday, November 19, 2009

I hope John Carlson gets a sweater tomorrow

John Carlson, first round draft pick of the Caps in the 2008 entry draft, is practicing at Kettler Iceplex because Milan Jurcina and Shane Morrisonn are both nursing injuries.  I'm going to the game tomorrow night and I want to see Carlson make his NHL debut.  

I first watched Carlson play in the Caps rookie development camp the summer of '08 and, boy, was I impressed.  I haven't been following prospects or rookies for that long, so I don't know a lot about evaluating rookies, but Carlson stood out to me.  I went back to watch him play when the Caps played the Flyers in the rookie scrimmage and, again, his smart hockey sense, great play along the boards, hard hitting, precision passing out of the zone, and offensive prowess all made him my favorite prospect that camp.

The thing I liked most about Carlson beyond his athletic ability is his willingness to do whatever it takes to play in the show.  Coach Boudreau apparently spent some time telling Carlson after that first rookie camp what he needed to do to succeed in terms of training and effort.  Carlson took him at his word and came into rookie camp showing it this year, even after playing an extended season through the OHL and the Hershey Bears championship run.  

Carlson looked like a veteran out there directing the defensive plays.  The suicides didn't leave him gasping.  He was completely comfortable.  Carlson got cut before too long during the Caps camp because Boudreau wanted him back in Hershey knowing he'd start his season there. 

Between camps, I followed his career while he played for the OHL London Knights under the tutelage of Coach Dale Hunter.  What better person to mentor the young Carlson I couldn't imagine (as a Caps fan anyway).  Carlson played great racking up 16 goals and 60 assists for 76 points in 59 games while playing +23 hockey.  Not bad!  Then, he went on to play 16 games for the Hershey Bears in their successful quest to win another Calder Cup, getting 3 points and playing +3 hockey.

Now, I don't expect much from Carlson tomorrow night, I'm just excited by the possibility of seeing him play.  He's the real deal and is going to be an impact player in the NHL.  I can't wait to see him develop.

If you get that sweater tomorrow, John, good luck!  I'll be cheering for you.

Let's go Caps!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The great 8 is back and Caps fan favorite nets GWG

Alex Ovechkin returns after two weeks, the longest absence of his career, and nets a power play goal on his signature shot from the point.  Welcome back Ovie! Ovie also had 7 hits, so I don't think that injury is bothering him too much.  

Matt Bradley, after bleeding all over Aaron Voros, scored the game winning goal on a breakaway.   To be fair to fan favorite, Brads, he did get some good punches in on Voros.  But, I'm tired of seeing Bradley bleeding.  He played a great game though.

The other unsung hero of the game, Quintin Laing, left the game with a broken jaw after blocking a shot with his face.  If all the Caps played with the heart, grit and intensity that Laing does on every shift, they'd have multiple Stanley Cups by now.  He is a hero and I hope he joins the Caps again soon. 

Not that I'll complain about the Cap's intensity last night.  They played a complete sixty minutes, without letting themselves get down after Marian Gaborik scored 1:16 into the game, and persevered against the chippy New York Rangers, to win 4-2.  There is intense hatred brewing between these two teams.  Pushing and shoving is commonplace between whistles.  I'm sure the Rangers are still ticked about Sergei Fedorov sending them home from the playoffs last year.

Next up, the Montreal Canadiens

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I get it, but....

Yes, the Caps are tied for first place in the Eastern conference, even without Alex Ovechkin on the ice.  And, yes, the Caps are tied for second place in the league.  So, Ted Leonsis keeps imploring the fans to 'enjoy the game' and 'relax'.  I've been a Caps fan since 1974 and I'm not in the mood to relax anymore about this town's lack of a Stanley Cup. Not when the Caps have the most spectacular player in the NHL on their team.  Sorry Ted.

I interrupt this rant to congratulate Chris Clark on his game winning goal against the injury and flu depleted New York Islanders in the 11th round of the shootout.  I like Clarkie a lot and he's struggled since all of his injuries, so I'm happy he got the GWG.  I also give Semin kudos for the spectacular game he played tonight.  His shot was on fire as he had 11 shots, 2 goals and a goal in the shootout.  Finally, I'll congratulate first star, Semyon Varlamov, for his spectacular play in net, particularly, during the shootout.  His athleticism was on display with his goal stopping splits.  Varly came off the bench to replace Jose Theodore after he let in 3 goals on 5 shots. 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, I mean rant.  The Caps have proven they can win the Southeast Division in the regular season.  But, who cares?  First of all, the Caps play in the weakest division in the league.  Second of all, it's only the second season in hockey that counts.  Winning the division doesn't matter in the playoffs. The score sheet starts out blank and 16 wins later through a grueling slog of gritty defensively minded hockey, some team out of 30 hoists the best trophy in the world, the Stanley Cup. 

The Caps playoff history in the Ovie era is not impressive -- 1 playoff series win in 3 played and that win came on a goal by a determined Sergei Fedorov against the New York Rangers.  Ovie himself, however, played tremendous hockey in the playoffs last year generating 11 goals, 10 assists in 14 games and playing +10 hockey.  You can't ask for much more from the Caps superstar.  I can ask a lot more from the rest of the team during the playoffs.

So, what bothers me about how the Caps are playing right now:
  • The constant playing down to the level of competition (this started last season) and the inability to put inferior competition away in games.  Championship teams do this.
  • The lack of defense, at times, from both the forwards and the defense.  The forwards need to back check and the defense needs to step it up.
  • The stupid stick handling penalties at inopportune times.  Alexander Semin can't seem to stop himself from committing untimely infractions.  This is simply inexcusable.  He's not the only one, but I'll pick on him for now.  
Okay, end of rant for the moment.  I still enjoy the game immensely and I'm thrilled the Caps have as many points as they do.  I just want the Caps to win the Stanley Cup in my lifetime and while Alex Ovechkin is a Cap.  So, I'll end on a positive note.  

What I like about the Caps playing without Ovie - the fact that scoring is coming in bunches and from a lot of different people.  Let's keep that up Caps when Ovie comes back.

The Caps play the Minnesota Wild on Friday before heading on a road trip.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Ovie-less Caps aren't Pretty

After two overtime losses in a row against the New York Islanders (a team that is playing well above expectations) and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Alex Ovechkin less Capitals debuted tonight against the New Jersey Devils and, what else, penalties did them in.  Alexander Semin took three penalties, Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison took one each and New Jersey took one (I'm not counting the fighting majors) and if the Caps think they're going to win games that way, they're sadly mistaken.

This team needs to learn how to play hard.  There has been many from the media and fans that have commented that Ovie's injury was an opportunity for this team to show what kind of character it has.  Well, tonight showed that they still can't play without making stupid penalties at the wrong time.   

The bright spots in an otherwise dismal game:Bold
  • The Caps plus/minus leader, who made a perfect saucer pass onto Tyler Sloan's stick for his first NHL point, Mathieu Perreault, played a great debut game.  He's fast, he mucks it up along the boards and he's motivated. I liked what I saw.
  • Brooks Laich and Matt Bradley who always play hard, played hard tonight.
  • Semyon Varlamov played a decent game in net, but couldn't win the game for the Caps. 
A home and home series against the Florida Panthers is next.

Let's go Caps!

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