Friday, January 30, 2015

When .... It's ...

Helloooo out there fellow Caps fans!  Today we're going to play the "when ... it's ..." game in honor of the slight roller coaster we Caps fans have been on the past couple weeks.  From December 4th through January 7th the riding the "Caps Train" was all honey and butter, really great fun like listening to Aretha Franklin belt out her best tunes on Soul Train in the 70's.  But then starting with the Caps-Flyers game on January 8th, even though the "four game losing streak" didn't start till a week later on January 16th in Smashville, watching the Caps, while still mostly fun for us fans, starting to get to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  Games were tight and the play by the Caps was at times, tentative so we started to get a bit tense and at times "reactive" - perhaps we were really channeling the teams own feelings from closer to "real time" then they or we would have preferred.  But as the team heads into tomorrow's game in Montreal to take on the once again, very "hot" Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are seemingly back to riding a wave of confidence after empathically breaking their recent loosing streak and besting the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 4-0 on the friendly tide of solidly played home cooking at Verizon Center on Wednesday night.  Thankfully, they aren't going into Bell Center on the tail of Tuesday's game in Columbus and so the game of "When .... It's..."

Let's start the game with the big picture ....

1)  "When after the All Star Break, your NHL hockey team of choice is on pace to finish the regular season with 100+ points and 40+ ROW, It's time to start saving your shekels to be able to afford to go watch some playoff hockey."

2) "When four of the seven Canadian NHL franchises are on track to make the playoffs at the All Star Break, It's pretty pointless to even worry for one second what the US-Canadian exchange rate might do to the salary cap since unless they are criminally mismanaged the Canadian franchises are likely to remain incredibly financially healthy."

3) "When immediately after the All Star Break, despite having one of his worst seasons ever, Sidney Crosby is still "just" fifth in the entire NHL in points/scoring and on track for his fifth straight 100+ point season, It's tragically ironic and funny to listen to media wonder aloud "What's wrong with Sid this year, etc." and as a Caps/Ovechkin fan very easy to imagine Ovi calling Sid and opening a conversation with: "Hey Sid, Ovi here, I don't know why they decided it was your turn for them to talk stupidly about, but you know what I'm not gonna say I'm sorry it's someone else in the League's turn, make sure when you pass it along it's to somebody like Sequin or Giroux, or better yet that cocky little "B" Kane,  and not back to me, okay?"

Now onto the more micro picture of the Caps to finish out today's game ....

1) "When the Caps play like they did on Tuesday evening against the Blue Jackets in Columbus; It's really, really easy to get down on them and be very, very concerned that once again you and they might be spending more time on the golf course than you'd prefer. After all "it" happened just last spring."

2) "When the Caps play like they did on Wednesday evening against Pittsburgh at Verizon Center; It's really, really, really easy to foolishly not worry about anything with this team or even how deep they might go into the playoffs and start having "champaign wishes and caviar dreams" that might even extend past say ... May 2015.  But that too would be really, really foolish, I mean remember the 2009 - 2010 team and how great they looked before the second season started?"

But fear not and hey enjoy the ride while we all can since ...

1) "When your concerns in life are centered on how "your" NHL team is really doing and is really positioned for the playoffs and run for "The CUP" are problems you have tome to consider/worry; Its really "all good" as those are truly "just and solely" what I call "first world problems."  As if to drive that point home we Caps fans can proudly point to our Team Captain for reflecting that, behaving in a manner that was pretty fun for all NHL fans to watch during the All Star Break and then have it turn around/out that he used the stage to do something good for some youngsters and families that have real, everyday challenges and generally approach them in a manner that is just a great example and model for us all.  I know to some talking about this is getting old and tired, however every time I think about it, I feel good about being an NHL fan instead of taking even a second to talk about the right amount of pressure an NFL football is supposed to be inflated to, etc. 

2) Finally, tomorrow... When we Caps fans pump out a tweet that bemoans the fact that only Ovechkin as opposed to say Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson were selected for the All Star Game: It's probably a good idea to look at the other team and think how ironic it is/was that the only Montreal player selected for the All Star Team was Carey Price instead of Price, P.K Subban (2012 Norris Trophy Winner), and the team's leading scorer Max Pacioretty.   I mean at the break the Canadiens only had 61 points in 45 games played and a top five record in the league while Columbus, with three all stars somehow was/is struggling out side of the playoffs and in appearing to be getting ready to make a run at the "McDavid" Sweepstakes.  My point is while I love the All Star Game, it's an NHL marketing event on par with the best, most well orchestrated sports marketing ever.  Thinking about it any other way and trying to fret about where somebody goes in the "mock draft" or something like that is pointless.  Every player selected, even some guy who got the most votes because he's the only guy in the league from Latvia  "really, really good at hockey."  Follow Ovechkin's example have fun with it, and hey wouldn't it be really, really great if the entire NHL turned at least some of the fun and benefits it generates into some good action and awareness raising for good causes.  I say let's make it one big "ice bucket challenge, car give away for great causes."  I'm even down with making sure the total goals increase - as long as we ditch that friggin' cannon.

In the meantime I'm hoping for a 4 - 1 win by the Caps tomorrow against the Habs.  I say LETS GO CAPS!!!! Wire to wire, never trail or be tied after the first goal and score the final fourth goal into an open net late in the third to ice it. Realistically do I think that will happen, probably not, but if the Caps play tomorrow at Bell Center like they did Wednesday evening at Verizon, I know it's possible, and hey if you're going to dream, why not dream big, "it don't cost any more."

So .... When this Blogger is wrapping up a post .... It's time to loudly proclaim:


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Way Forward To The Playoffs For The Caps - A Fan Boy's Opinion

Okay I admit it, I'm a fan boy - a very competitive fan boy - but a fan boy none the less.  Yes I've played hockey growing up, even a little semi-formal" club level/DIII hockey a long time ago in college.  I also admit I wasn't very good, nor were the teams I played on.   So while I have some knowledge of ice hockey I consider myself a fan boy.  I did other sports much more seriously though and I'm quite competitive.  As a Capitals fan, last season (2013-14) was frustrating for me - as I absolutely love spending money to go see NHL playoff games and "my" Washington Capitals did not make the playoffs.  So this season with the Capitals on track to make the playoffs if they keep up the pace they've been playing my fan boy cheers are there to exhort our Capitals on to a clear path to the playoffs.  To me that means 100 points and 40+ ROW (Regulation/Overtime Wins). 

Sure as some have pointed out 95 points will probably be good enough in the East to make the post season, but I say - why chance it.  Go for 100+ and be safe.  The Capitals are currently on track - if they keep playing  to their 2014-15 "norm" the rest of the season.  This season over the first 46 games our Washington Capitals have played 0.619+ hockey and are on track for 101 points.  So I say stay the course Caps, don't let up, don't look back or down the standings at teams like Florida, or even Boston; look up at Pittsburgh, and even the New York Islanders, that way you'll be striving for excellence, rather than working to prevent any sort of collapse/slide.  Working to avoid something rather than achieve something just doesn't seem to me to be a "winning posture/mentality," nor does trying to be "just good enough" to get to the next step up from where you finished the prior season.  That's why I say reach for the stars, if you fall a little short, what's the worst thing that could happen - you get to Mars?  Think about it.  Strive for 100+ points and only get 98, you're probably still good to go for "the second season" - strive to squeak into the playoffs and miss, what happens - get the golf shoes out, ... AGAIN.  So I say skate fast, play hard (all 60+ minutes, have fun and win.

That's should be tonight's theme in Columbus - let's all push for the Caps to play so well tonight Holtby gets shutout number five, we don't hear that obnoxious cannon and Ovi gets the hat-trick just like Tavares did in the ASG out there.

Keys tonight for the Caps: a) hit on all eight cylinders all night long; b) backcheck, backcheck, backcheck; c) play the Blue Jackets key weapons tight to stifle there game and take it to them all night;  d) win the faceoff and therefore the puck possession battle; and finally e) keep it simple and shoot the puck on net, a lot.

Okay, forget about the last three games before the all star break and



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Looking Ahead - Caps Games 47 - 50 (Week of 1/25 - 31/2015)

Well Caps fans the All Star Game is over. Now, the week ahead means the Caps are in search of six more regular season standings points.  This week the Caps face the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday, on Wednesday they "host" the Penguins here in DC at Verizon Center and then they finish the week on Saturday in Montreal.  All in all it should be a tough week and an interesting week - a week of good hockey.  For the Caps what they need to do is simple, they need to break a three game losing streak. Lets face it the Caps weren't looking real good the last three games before the break so hopefully the week off has been a time for them to clear their minds, heal, make whatever adjustments they needed to make and be ready to resume the rest of the regular season in a manner that keeps them on track for a 100+ point/40+ROW season.

  The Caps can start the rest of the season off right with a win on Tuesday in Columbus, it won't be an easy two points though as Columbus hasn't been a easy game for the Caps this season two of the first three games have gone to OT sow while the Caps are 2-0-1 in those games each of the games have required the Caps to play a full 60:00+ at 100+% to get the five points they've captured.  The good news for the Caps on Tuesday is that the man who forced those last two games to OT - Sergei Bobrovsky will likely still be out and not in net for the Blue Jackets, the bad news - all the rest of the Columbus team will be eager to show the hockey world they can still win and compete for a playoff spot.

Then on Wednesday evening the Caps host the Penguins and a presumably well rested Sidney Crosby at Verizon Center.  The Penguins will be looking to "repay" the Caps for the 3-0 loss the Caps handed them a couple of weeks ago on December 27th at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. While it would be nice if Braden Holtby could come up with another shutout, it would be even nicer if the Caps played so well it was easier for he and they to come up with another wire to wire three goal victory.  But again it won't be an easy two points - to win the Caps entire team will have to play a 60:00, 200 foot, 110% game.

Then on Saturday afternoon, the Caps play a matinee in Montreal where they get to play Carey Price and surging Canadiens team.  The Habs are on pace for a 111 point/44 ROW Season and were 7-2-1 in their last 10 games before the ASG break.  Additionally the Caps fell to the Canadiens 2-1 in their one other meeting this regular season way back on October 9th when the Haps came to Verizon Center.  So again this game will require the Caps to play solid, "heavy" hockey through all 60:00 if they are to come away from Bell Center with any points.

If the Caps can turn the three game pre-ASG losing streak around and come away from these last three games of the month of January with at least three of the six available points, with a 7-4-2 record and 16 of the available 26 points (0.615) for the month.  They will also finish the month with a total of 60 points and 24 ROW in 49 GP - on track for a 100 point/40ROW season.  I believe it may actually take that be sure to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this season the way things are going as right now 7 of the 8 teams in playoff positions are on track for 100 point seasons and number 8 - the Bruins are close behind on pace for a 97+ point season.  Additionally of the 8 Eastern Conference teams in playoff spots today 7 of the 8 have player 0.700+ hockey in their last 10 games before the ASG break; only the Penguins are under 0.700 and it doesn't seem likely they'll stay on their current 4-3-3 (0.550) - last 10 games - pace for long.

Well that's the week ahead for us Caps fans ... all I can say is ...


Friday, January 9, 2015

2015 Week 2 - Capitals Games 38, 39, and 40 Are In The Books ...

Well fellow Caps Fans here we are basically at the mid-point of the 2014 - 15 NHL regular season and the Barry Trotz era Capitals appear to have jelled into their new system rather nicely and with a new culture as well.  No "Winter Classic Hangover here (nor in Chicago for that matter.)  The Caps are now 3-0-1 so far in the New Year after going 8-2-3 for the month of December, all of which means that at this season's midpoint the Capitals find themselves 21-11-8 with 50 points & 20 ROW on track for 100+ points and 40 ROW.  That's a pretty big change from last season when they finished the regular season with 90 points and a paltry 28 ROW which meant golf lessons.  The biggest difference, the one that validates how much harder a team, the Caps are to play against is the ROW number.  That and the overall goal differential the Caps finished last season with a goal differential of -5, this season through 40 games, the Caps are +16.  Those two things are really huge, IMO. 

Then we have the basic way the Caps play now which in games like the Winter Classic or any of games 38, 39 and 40 you can see, this is a much different team then we've seen in a pretty long time.  The 2014-15 version of the Washington Capitals are constructed fundamentally different then the Caps have been built in some time.  Over the past summer when the Caps decided that GMBM, former Deputy GM Brian , would succeed GMGM his former boss George Mc Phee, I feared the Caps would not change enough.  Then when  free agency opened and the Caps went out and spent big money to bring in not one but two high priced UFA Defensemen, one of whom is 34 years old, I still wondered how this season would play out.  I was encouraged but apprehensive.  The first two full months of the season, and to some degree even now, the jury remains "out." But for me December gave me enough encouragement that I've transitioned from "cautious" through "cautiously optimistic" to just plain "optimistic."   One of the reasons for my shift is that same 34 year old UFA defensemen that GMBM signed over the summer - Brooks Orpik, let's face it the Caps haven't had such a physical "stopper" defensemen on the blueline since trading Brendan Witt to the Nashville Predators during the 2005-2006 season.  And when was the last time the Caps had five bonafide NHL top four caliber defensemen in their lineup?  Clearly the team has and retains a scary good group of forwards who now have scored a total of 120 goals and average of 3.0 goals per game so far this season, buts its the fact that despite having a group of forwards lead by a generational talent who has averaged 0.615 goals/game over his career so far (678 NHL regular season and 58 NHL playoff games) is now clearly built from the goal line out.  A team built so that the offense starts and is rooted in solid defense.  Still not convinced look at the scoring stats of the Capital's blueline corps led by John Carlson who is having a career year: 4 G and 26 A, 30 Points through 40 games played; followed by a resurgent Mike Green: 4 G, 19 A, 23 Points in 32 games played; Karl Alzner with a career high 3 G (and 6 A), even though the season is only half way over.  Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen who also have 9 and 13 points respectively.  Clearly the blue liners are stepping up and participating in the offense as well as blocking shots and making sure the overall team defense numbers are looking good including resulting in a average goals against per game of 2.6 goals/game (10th best in the NHL so far this season.)

Then look at the difference in the forwards and the offense - clearly Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are at the core of the Capitals "offensive game" but with four other forwards (Fehr, Ward, Brouwer, and Johansson) besides Ovechkin and Backstrom on track for 20+ goal seasons and another six players (Laich, Beagle, Burakovsky, Kuznetsov, Carlson, and Green) likely to end the season with 10+ goals this is clearly a much more balanced group of scoring forwards as well.   And I'm not the only one starting to notice some of the other Washington forwards "gifts" and impact.  If that isn't enough to convince you please also note that 10 different Capitals have scored the game winning goal in the Caps 21 wins so far this season. 

Now back to a quick set of thoughts on the three games this past week. 

Game 38 was a  solidly played, 2 point afternoon home win on Sunday January 4th over the never say die Florida Panthers.  While there were a few flitches and lapses, to my thinking the Caps played a well structured game that they pretty much controlled the full 60:00 IMO. 

Game 39 was a good road game on Wednesday evening in Toronto that ultimately the Caps won in regulation by a score of 6 - 2.  Despite the final score, for the first ~27:00 the game was closer than the final score indicates but from that point on the Caps clearly controlled the game and the Maple Leafs. 

Game 40 was the second game of back to back road games that the Caps stole a point from the Flyers on the back of Braden Holtby's performance in goal last night in Philadelphia.  That said the Caps never quit and it was the second game of  two back to back road games in a hard building to play in and three points out of a possible four in two nights are three points I'd gladly take without complaint.  If you're counting that's five out of a possible six points this past week or 0.833 hockey if you're counting.

Next up the Red Wings at Verizon Center tomorrow evening....