Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hmmm.who are these Caps, really?

And that's a good question.  Since I last wrote (and my new job precludes me from writing as often as I'd like to, but, hey I have a new avocation instead of spending too much time reading about the Washington Capitals so that's a good thing), the Caps have gotten smacked down by the Atlanta Thrashers, beaten up by the Carolina Hurricanes and Cam Ward but they also shut out Florida 3-0 and beat up on Tampa Bay 5-2.  On a nightly basis it's impossible to know which Washington Capital team will show up.  

The fans are losing it, as evidenced by the message boards, and are in varying degrees of mass hysteria but there's a history there.  Caps fans are long suffering fans when it comes to playoff success. The Caps haven't won a round in the playoffs in ten years.  If they win one playoff round this year, that, to me, would constitute a successful season.

The Caps, like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, may disagree with my seeming willingness to give up further playoff success so easily.  But I don't see it yet.  The Caps haven't yet realized that to be an elite team you have to stop playing down to bad teams and up for just the good teams. Elite teams play to win, always.  The Caps don't.  They sit back when they should be putting away teams.

The Caps defense will not get them very far in the playoffs.   They still can't play worth  a damn against gritty teams (see the Philadelphia Flyers games) and they get pushed around too easily. That is a recipe for playing golf in April.  

I love this team, but I don't see them going far in the playoffs yet.   Hopefully, they'll prove me wrong. I'd gleefully admit to being wrong since I'd be happier if the Caps were advancing in the playoffs than if they were out of it.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are up next for the Caps.

Let's go Caps!

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Caps tough one out to get 2 points in Philly

It's hard for me to decide which team from the state of Pennsylvania I hate most, the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Philadelphia Flyers. I think the Flyers have a slight edge right now as the Caps lost to them in game 7 in OT during the first round of the playoffs last year and they trounced the Caps 7-1 in December.  On Thursday, at least, the Caps came out on top 2-1 at Philly for a nice mini road trip that ended with 4 points.

Alex Ovechkin scored, assisted and made the biggest defensive play of the game, by knocking the puck off a streaking Flyer's stick while sliding on the ice, for the first star.  On the power play goal, Ovie shot to the net and Brooks Laich, perfectly positioned in front of the net, deflected the shot for the goal.  The Caps win more games when they remember to park themselves in front of the net.  Ovie's game winning 48th goal with a pass from Alexander Semin came with 2:41 left in the game.  Semin interupted a Philly pass and sent it to Ovie in a beautiful move to get that goal.  

The Caps penalty killers were stellar killing off 3 penalties in the first period and Jose Theodore made some highlight reel stops on Philly to get the 2nd star and keep the team in the game for the win. 

The puck drops in two hours against the Carolina Hurricanes who are fighting for the 8th spot in the playoffs.  They'll be hungry as every game counts for them so it'll be interesting.

Let's go Caps!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

The fighters give the Caps momentum in Nashville

The Caps won a hard fought game in Nashville against the Predators to get a rare win against a Western conference team.  The first period between these teams erupted with two fights. The first one ended with watching Donald Brashear crumple to the ice after getting decked by Wade Belak.  Brashear is one of the top fighters in the NHL and I've never seen him go down by like before.  Matt Bradley went for redemption 3 minutes after the Brashear fight by going at it with Jordon Tootoo and left the ice a bloody mess.  He came back after getting stitches.  The fights energized the Caps and they played for their battle weary teammates.  

Sergei Fedorov, once again, showed why he's a future hall of famer by taking the puck from a pretty Viktor Kozlov pass and patiently stick handling until he could make a slick move and shoot the puck around backup goalie Dan Ellis for the game winning goal.  He was awarded the 2nd star of the game for his efforts.  Ellis got the first star as he stymied the Caps on 42 of their 44 shots.

Nicklas Backstrom was awarded the 3rd star for his goal and overall stellar play in 23+ minutes of ice time. He is playing mighty impressive hockey these days. I don't envy defensemen trying to get him off the pucks because it stays on his stick through tough battles along the boards.  Backie is playing physical playoff style hockey and it's only his 2nd year in the NHL.

The other two players playing like demons right now are Alexander Semin and Jose Theodore.  Semin is playing with playoff intensity and Theodore, at times, is standing on his head to keep his team in the game.  I'm not sure where this Theodore came from, but I like him a lot better than the Oct/Nov 2008 Theodore.

The Caps then traveled to Philly.

Let's go Caps!

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Not a good time to slump - maybe OT loss signals a change

The Caps have been playing like a team that doesn't care for the past couple of weeks other than a win over the Boston Bruins.  They showed a little more heart and played a little better yesterday, coming back from 3-1 to tie the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 3rd period and ended up with a point in an overtime shootout loss.

This team has lost it recently and no one should think Coach Boudreau is happy with the way his team has played even if they are in first place in the SE and now in 3rd place in the Eastern conference.  So, what is it?  Do they believe their own hype too much as many have said? Is their defense just that bad (or that young and inexperienced) to begin with?  Do they really think they're an elite team too good for the likes of the teams that are below them in the standings? And, if that's the case, why in the hell didn't they learn from their early losses against those teams?  Is Coach Boudreau struggling to motivate this team? Do the Caps need new assistant coaches?  Are the guys waiting for the playoffs to turn it on?  

I don't know the answer, but I do know that I'd really like the Caps to win their first playoff series in 10 years this year.  I have no expectations for this team beyond that because all the pieces aren't in place yet, particularly, on defense.  The atrocious defense is a glaring weakness that must be addressed before this team will be a serious Cup contender.

The Caps make a rare trip to Nashville tomorrow to take on the Predators.

Let's go Caps!

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Capitals choke and miss an opportunity

Elite teams play as hard against teams that are behind them in the standings as they do against teams they are trying to catch in the standings.  The Caps, on the other hand, seem to consistently follow up a strong game against a top opponent, see Boston yesterday, to take a team that is trying to catch them in the standings, the Florida Panthers, way too lightly.  The result...they got shellacked by them for a 6-2 loss.  Ugh.

Putting Sergei Fedorov on defense means Coach Bruce Boudreau got as tired of the putrid defensive play as the rest of the fans.  Coach Boudreau needs to find a way to motivate this team to play better on defense, in general, play as a team, quit trying to do it as individuals, stop making stupid cross ice passes that result in giveaways and stay out of the damn penalty box.  It's quite simple but this team fails to execute in a consistent manner and they give up two points.

Goaltending wasn't much better.  Jose Theodore, the losing goalie, got pulled after letting in four shots. Michal Neuvirth couldn't save the Caps and let in two goals.

A disgusting loss.

The Caps play the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Let's go Caps!


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Cardiac Caps outlast Boston for an OT win

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins are evenly matched teams.  Most of their games are close games and they frequently go to overtime, just like yesterday.  I'm tense watching because an untimely penalty or a giveaway to Marc Savard may mean the Caps lose But, they prevailed 4-3 although Boston also got a point.

The Caps had 1 penalty in the first period, none in the second period and then fell apart with three penalties in the third period with the score tied.  Not the time to start playing undisciplined hockey.  Boston, Zdeno Chara to be specific, scored on the last penalty.  You can't give this team too many man advantage opportunities.  The Caps were only in the penalty box 4 times last night which is great for them, but to have 3 of those come in the 3rd period is not good.  There were also a number of non-calls made by the refs which was an irritating part of watching the game.

I'm sure Boston net minder Tim Thomas wishes he had two goals back from the Caps because, on most days, I think Thomas would have had both of them.  The Caps third goal came courtesy of Tomas Fleischmann's goal off of Dennis Wideman's skate.  This happened to the Caps against Boston off of Milan Jurcina's skate.  The overtime game winner came courtesy of Alexander Semin's 80 foot puck toss.  Semin was hungry for scoring yesterday. You could see it in his face, at times.

Nicklas Backstrom's goal from Semin and Mike Green caught Thomas on the wrong side of the net.  Backstrom's on an 8 game scoring streak, his personal best a 9 game streak, happened earlier this season. He is one helluva of a hockey player and I think he flies way under the radar screen of the NHL.  Backstrom's game has developed significantly this season even though he started out slow.  He's a strong puck handler and is tough to get off the puck. He battles hard against the boards and wins more than he loses.  He's a consistent point scorer and his passes are beautiful.  His vision on the ice is spectacular, too.  His faceoffs are his weak point as evidenced by yesterday's 33% win percentage on 15 tries.  I have faith he'll improve there. He's +14 so he's defensively responsible although he has room for improvement there, too.  He is in his 2nd season so I can't wait to watch him become even better.

Jose Theodore made some spectacular saves and survived some serious flurries of activity in front of the net but should have saved the shot from Chara that forced the game to go into overtime.

The Florida Panthers come into town this afternoon.  Can I just say that I'm sick of having to be around to watch so many day games.  It makes it tough to get things done on the weekend.

Let's go Caps!

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