Monday, October 25, 2010

Feeling lackadaisical about the Caps

I love hockey. I love the Caps. Those facts are undisputed. But, I can't seem to get excited for this season and maybe it's because of the way the Caps are playing. Their woes are well know - a lot of injuries, a too young defense that has a lot to learn, a first line that isn't clicking and a power play that couldn't find the back of the net if the net covered the entire end of the rink.

But, that's not what concerns me the most. Despite their 5-3, 10 point record, they look rough out there. There's too much waiting around for the puck, dumping it in and losing the puck, turnovers and a lack of flow to their game. For a team that's supposed to "Stay angry. Believe in yourself." they aren't displaying a lot of emotion.

I'm sorry I missed watching Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers only because I would have liked to see Mattieu Perreault (Matty P!) feed Alexander Semin for two of his three hat trick goals, one of which he got to Semin while being tripped. Not to mention witnessing his success at the dot. He won 64% of his faceoffs and he took 14. Gee, you think the Caps need a little more Matty P? I like the energy he plays with and he makes things happen. I understand, maybe, that there's not room for him here full-time now and I understand he faded after playing twenty games last year, but I still think he has what it takes to be a full-time NHL'er. Think Martin St. Louis.

Step it up Caps and please get healthy.

Let's go Caps!

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neuvirth looking strong in net

Michal Neuvirth gives me confidence about the Caps situation in net with their two young net minders. I'm watching the game against the New York Islanders right now and Neuvirth is in the zone, making highlight reel saves...sprawling diving saves and stopping the puck stone cold saves. He's been impressive to watch and is certainly building his case to be the number one goalie for the Caps.

He's been described as calm and his play exhibits that. Wearing the well earned hard hat tonight, Neuvy displayed his poise in his post game interview. His teammates seem to have confidence in him and that's huge.

In the comparisons between the too often injured for my liking, Semyon Varlamov, and Neuvy, Neuvy is known as the "technician" while Varly is know for his athleticism and acrobatic ability in net. Of course, that acrobatic part may be why Varly gets injured too much, even though it's fun to watch, and reminds me of moves Soviet gymnasts used to make. I was a big Olga Korbut fan.

However, the "technician", is in control. Neuvy anticipates shots well, is rarely out of position, and moves with precision to get the job done. I'm really liking this guy so far.

There were years and years when Caps fans didn't have to worry about the net. Olie the goalie was the workhorse that got the job done game after game. His game faded in the end, but his passion, his temper and his hard work continued to define him. There are times when I miss Olie's "what was said had to be said" demeanor in the locker room. The Caps could use his ability to kick butts in the locker room, at times.

But, I'm encouraged by the emergence of the young Czech. Even though his baby face and calm demeanor could never emulate Olie, he could become a workhorse in net. He's won everything he can at the AHL level, including two Calder Cups and the MVP. Now, it's his time to prove his worth in the NHL and he's doing a great job of it, so far.

Let's go Caps.
p.s. I'm glad the Caps finally netted a power play goal off of Nicklas Backstrom's skate and Ovie got one goal to eke past the injured New York Islanders with a 2-1 win. The Caps aren't much better on the injury front with Matt Bradley, Tom Poti and Marcus Johansson out and Mike Green leaving the game, but that game should have been easier.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

And, so it begins

Another hockey season has started and the Washington Capitals have much to prove after the disastrous end to their season at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Being a Caps fan since the beginning, I knew in my gut they weren't going to win game 7 so I couldn't even watch that train wreck. I adopted a dog instead. Some might call me a fair weather fan for that be it. The real story is I'm too emotionally invested in a team that has crushed my dreams to see the Stanley Cup come to Washington time and time again.

There are many questions about this team that won't be answered until April, but there is a regular season to play first. And, what have the Caps showed us in their first two games this season.

  • They still take games for granted. That lackluster effort against the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday is unacceptable.
  • Instead of "Stay angry. Believe in yourself." as their team motto, this team should adopt "defense first" as their motto. Their play in their own end floundered and resulted in Atlanta beating the Caps 4-2 on the opening night.
  • Saturday's game against the New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, showed what the Caps are capable of when they turn it on. They didn't do that until the second period when they were trailing 3-2 after, once again, playing sloppy defense.
  • The Caps stood up for each other, which is good to see. Four third period fights while the coaches yelled at each other showed a frustrated New Jersey team and a Caps team willing to drop the mitts.
So, while the Caps slog through the long regular season, here's what I'm looking forward to:

  • Watching Alex Ovechkin. I'll never tire of watching the most scintillating player in hockey generate three points in a night like he did against New Jersey.
  • Seeing how John Carlson develops. I've watched him and followed his career since his first rookie camp and I like how he plays. He had one goal and two assists against New Jersey and I expect to see more offense from him this season. But, his defensive play will be even more important for the Caps, particularly, come playoff time. I think there's no doubt Carlson will be in the race for the Calder Trophy this season.
  • Following Marcus Johansson's rookie year. The highly touted Swedish center is expected to improve Washington's depth down the middle. So far, he's adjusting to the smaller ice and playing pretty well. His faceoff win percentage took a leap in his second game, but I suspect he'll continue to struggle there as his countryman, Nicklas Backstrom, still does.
  • Continuing to watch Nicklas Backstrom become an elite center in the NHL. Seeing Backstrom control the game with his vision and making sublime passes is fun to watch.
  • Celebrating when Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich bag garbage goals with their grit and determination.
Assuming the Caps make the playoffs, these are the questions that will remain unanswered until April.
  • Can the Caps find the mental toughness and commitment to defense to make a long playoff run?
  • Will Mike Green show up in the playoffs?
  • Will John Carlson and Karl Alzner develop enough to shore up the blue line?
  • Will Semyon Varlamov stay healthy and will the rookie goaltending duo of him and Michal Neurvirth be good enough for a long playoff run?
  • Will the penalty kill improve?
  • Will the Caps commit to shorter shifts for players like Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin who cannot do it all?
  • Will Coach Boudreau learn that matchups are important in April and May and June?
Many unanswered questions and a long season ahead.

I'm looking forward to my first live game tonight.

Let's go Caps!

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