Sunday, October 7, 2018

Should I or Shouldn't I ? ... Blog That Is

Last March I threatened to return to blogging but now I really do think it's time.  After watching the first two Capitals games of the 2018-19 season and a couple of other games I think I'm ready to actually do it.  I hope I can again become disciplined and rigorous enough to muse and blog about hockey at least after every Caps game this season and maybe even about a couple other things in my middle age pretty boring life.  To catch up, we no longer live in Bucolic Bristow, or Charleston.  We're back in Northern VA and now living in Friendly Fairfax.  Fairfax is nice! It's closer - no more daily 30+ mile commute to Arlington/Crystal City via and with the traffic on the Sunset Strip.  Why it took me 22 years to realize, that for us, a place like this, and a smaller house (in square footage) was right for us, I have no idea, That said both my wife and I and our furry family members are very happy here - side bonus is it's A LOT easier to get to and from Capital One Center, and a lot other places in the DCMVA area we typically go.  Enough about me, what about hockey?  Well, I still split the tickets with two former colleagues I used to work with - it's a great arrangement.  I never gave up the tickets or on the Capitals so they are still awesome seats with and around awesome fellow hockey fans in Section 103.  So here we go, I'm gonna blog again.

As I mentioned earlier, I did not have the tickets for opening night so I watched that game on NBCsN.  I also watched the Pittsburgh game at home. Both were great games to watch IMO, even though the Bruins really were not ready to play on opening night.  The Caps retained their structure and the result showed what they could do - which is basically play the same way that propelled them through the playoffs to the Cup.  The first line 8, 92, and 10 in for 43 looked very good the entire game.  13-19-77 looked very good and very fast when they need/wanted to.  63-20-18 was very solid and fast, in fact 18 (Stephenson) was wicked fast a couple of times in GM 1 vs Boston, but flashed his speed even more-so the following evening in Pittsburgh.  The fourth line looked very good as well during game 1, I think we're all going to decide Nic Dowd was another great pickup by GMBM The fact that during the 7-0 trouncing of the Bruins the scoring came from six different players across all four lines last seasons leading scoring defenseman - John Carlson, and the Matt Niskanen, and even Braden Holtby had assists was #awesome.  Simply put, Game 1 could not have gone better for the Caps all around.  The team played fast, structured hockey and there were no passengers.

Game 2 in Pittsburgh was a different story.  We can all whine about starting the season with a back to back against two good opponents, but why should we - what would be the point? I submit there is none.  Look the Caps-Pens rivalry is fun hockey to watch anytime.  Game 2 for the Capitals was Game 1 and the Home Opener for the Penguins.  It needed up being fire wagon hockey, a least on the score sheet.  The Caps had their chances to win it for sure.  Their legs as a group didn't look like they held up as well as we Caps fans would have liked to have seen, especially in the this period when they took three penalties because, IMO, of the Pens moving their feet better and faster.  That said, the Caps did have their chances to put the game away, they led 3-2 after the first period, trailed 5-4 after the second, and forced overtime at 6-6 thanks to two goals from TJ Oshie in the third.  They lost in OT 7-6 with Evgeni Kuznetsov in the penalty box and the Pens on the PP.  Given as Sidney Crosby said in post game comments "It's not often you win a game giving up 6 goals in this league" -it's even less often you win one if you give up 7 goals.  As pretty and well executed as Game 1 was for the Caps, Game 2 was that chaotic, crazy and unstructured by both teams, I'm sure neither coaching staff was all that happy with what they saw from their teams in the Caps Game 2.

For the Caps the consolation is they finished the first two games of the season and their first set of back to backs against two good teams earning 3 out of 4 possible points.  They then have a rest until this coming Wednesday when they take on VGK, here at home.  I can't wait that's the first "real" game of this season that I will be at.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

I'm Back ....

    Well after a two year hiatus from blogging I've decided to give it a try again.  I'm going to go back to my beginnings though and blog about all my musings, not just the Washington Capitals.  Though, how about those Capitals?  Tonight they beat the Islanders for the second time in two nights and are now in first place in the Metropolitan division as the regular season has only 11 games remaining for most teams.  Even more importantly the Caps have now rebounded, IMO, from playing very lackluster hockey to playing 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.  That's looking pretty good, IMO.  Next up on Sunday is an important game against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

   How about the NCAA Tournament? aka March Madness?  Can you believe UMBC? I know I was shocked - pleasantly.

    Also in other news, we've moved back to the DC Metro area - last October and just today closed on the purchase of a "new to us" house in Fairfax City.  I've changed jobs and am now working for a small local software company and there we're moving offices too.  So lots of change going on for me.

Basically, life is good.  Well more thoughts and musings later...

Friday, March 4, 2016

2015-16 Washington Caps: Just How Good Is 98 Points in 63 Games, and What Do The Caps Need to Do Now To Reach Their Goal?

Wow, ... just wow.  That's how good 98 points in 63 games is - the Capitals have played 0.7778 hockey over the course of the season thus far; in the 77% of the season completed to date, the Capitals have basically amassed enough points so that they would have qualified for the playoffs in either conference last season.  That's pretty good in itself.  Then consider these items, the Caps:
  • Current Goal Differential (+63) is already better than last season's awesome +60 goal differential by the 2015 President's Trophy winning NY Rangers.
  • The Caps current GF/Game and GA/Game numbers are right up there with last season's league leaders numbers as well.
  • The Caps current record over the last 10 games 7-3-0 is the third best in the league behind only Anaheim's perfect 10-0-0 and Tampa Bay's 8-2-0 numbers despite the fact the league leading Capitals are 7 1/2 games ahead of the second place (for the league) Black Hawks and 9 1/2 games ahead of the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference.  Both the Ducks and the Lightning on the other hand are now in dogfights to win their division after relatively slow starts to their seasons.  To be clear the Caps have shown basically slow starts to their games over the last 10 plus games but have responded over the course of those games and shown their talent and compete levels are there and able to find ways to take control of most games and win against anyone and play in "heavy style and games."
Basically from a general perspective, the challenges now for the Caps between no and April 15th is integrating their trade deadline pickups to the lineup, which shouldn't be overly difficult since GMBM's pickups were for depth vice addressing any key position needs.  The other thing they need to do is to stay interested and get or stay healthy. That means continuing to play the right way and make sure they don't develop any bad habits over the last 19 games of the season.

What do the Caps need to do to reach their goal - which is to still be playing and winning in June? That's a harder question, if the season ended today I think their road to that goal would be through: Pittsburgh; Madison Square Garden (NYR); Tampa Bay; and either Chicago, LA, or Anaheim.  Think about that and you can clearly see why the Stanley Cup really is the most difficult Professional Sports Championship to win.  Despite likely winning the league regular season by 5 or more games, to win the Championship the Caps will have to win 16 of what will likely be 22+ games against other teams who now have average records of 0.620 and are all very solid, accomplished teams of prideful, professionals.  That's a long row to hoe for anyone who wants to win "The Cup."  To do so will, as with prior years, take complete teams playing complete 200' hockey for sixty or sixty plus minutes per game.  Thankfully the Capitals are a deeper and stronger on the puck hockey team then they've been, possibly ever, but certainly for any time over the past decade.  They now have eight (8) NHL quality defensemen capable of playing in basically any situation - yes I'm assuming that John Carlson will end the regular season back in the lineup and in awesome playing shape for the start of the playoffs.  They have two (2) NHL quality goalies, on having a season clearly worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration, and I predict assuming they have a deep playoff run the way he's been playing Holtby is likely to be in consideration for the Conn Smythe as well.  Then there's the Caps depth on the forward lines, the Caps are clearly a four line team with threats on all four lines from Rocket Richard leading Alex Ovechkin to late season pickup fourth line Center Mike Richards.  As long as they continue to play the right way and play a 200' game generating their scoring chances from sound defense and solid breakouts from their own zone, the Caps at times appear unstoppable.  That said the road to Lord Stanley's Cup will be through four other teams whose fans and Bloggers will likely be justifiably writing similar comments and accolades.  One things for sure, the next two months we Capital's fans will be again treated to some excellent hockey contests and I am as optimistic as I've ever been that will continue into June.


- starting with tonight's game against the Rangers at Verizon Center.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year - Farewell 2015 and "How 'bout 'dem Washington Capitals!?!

Well fellow Capitals fans it's been a couple of months since September when I last posted here about our favorite NHL team, the Washington Capitals.  To say they've been good months for us and the Caps would, frankly, be an understatement.  Right now, as of this AM, the Capitals are running away in the standings from 28 other teams in the league.  The only team that the Caps are close with are the Dallas Stars who are also having a great season so far.  I'm writing this blog post in such a positive tone right after a Caps underwhelming loss to the Carolina Hurricanes last evening for two main reasons.  The Capitals 58 points in 37 games is truly an amazing 0.784 pace through the season to date and that's a pace that would see them end the season with 128 points which would likely mean another President's Trophy for them.  That's pretty good stuff, though we know now a great regular season is no guarantee of post season success, so I suspect none of us Capitals fans are all that excited about the simple standings point total, I know I'm not.  What I am excited about is the way the Capitals are playing and winning so far - look at the league standings and you can quickly see despite being an offensively potent team (the Capitals 117 GF and 3.162 GF/G is second best (to Dallas) in the league,) the Caps are creating scoring chances by taking care of things in their own end and playing defense first (their 78 GA and 2.11 GA/G) is best in the league.  The Capitals goal differential of +39 ties them with Dallas for the best in league on that score, so you can see with a goal differential of +1.05 the Caps are a worthy opponent for any team in the NHL to measure themselves against.  The other thing that has been noted by several on air and MSM print analysts of late is this Capitals team is basically strong and deep across the board at every position.  That's why both they and the Dallas Stars are basically 4+ games ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and 6 1/2+ games ahead of anybody else in the league as they skate through the New Year toward the 2016 NHL All Star Break.

So as we look towards April 2016 and the start of the NHL post season, what's the season to date portend about what it will take to for sure make the playoffs? Well lets start with saying it's likely going to take 97+ points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and 94+ points to make it in the Western Conference with the possible exception of the third place  spot in the Pacific Division.  This is a bit of an anomaly compared to recent years when the Western Conference has been clearly the stronger of the two Conferences however the strongest division (and hardest to get into the playoffs from) still is in the West - the Central Division could easily end up with five (5) teams in the playoffs and the number seven and eight seeds in the Western Conference will likely be as likely to get past the first round as not by any odds maker's book. At this point the teams in the West I consider long shots at best (odds of 25-1) of making the playoffs is really just Edmonton, with just 33 points in 39 games and a goal differential -22, even though Edmonton is in the Pacific Division and only 4 games behind the third place San Jose Sharks, I don't think you can give them better than 25-1 odds against making the playoffs at this time.  Calgary, Anaheim, and Vancouver are all only 1 1/2 games or less behind San Jose so that means the Pacific Division will be a battle ground for the second and third place post season spots the rest of the way this season and from an odds perspective until somebody breaks away from the pack of Arizona, San Jose, Vancouver, Anaheim and Calgary in either direction the odds of any of two of those five teams making the post season will be pretty much equal.  In the Central Division, those teams records and play to date - all seven of them - has been better than all of the Pacific division, with the clear exception of the LA Kings, however right now things aren't looking good for Winnipeg who is in seventh place in the Division with just 36 points in 37 games and a - 10 goal differential.  Winnipeg needs to get more consistent on defense and keep the puck out of their own end and net more if they are going to turn things around and begin the climb to a playoff spot.  Right now they are 3 games out of a Wild Card spot and with a 6-14-0 record against Western Conference opponents so far this season, their 109 GA and 2.95 GA/G (vs a GF/G of just 2.68) giving them a 20-1 chance of making the playoffs is probably being kind.  Other than that in the West we probably have to wait till the end of January to start to draw any conclusions or make any real projections.

In the East, unless the injury bug hits hard or some other thing causes anomalous behavior to start soon and continue for some time the Caps will be the number 1 seed and seeds 2 through 8 will likely finish within 6 points of each other.  Truth be known based on the NHL season to date, in the East any one of 12 or even 13 teams besides the Capitals could find themselves in the post season as likely as any of the other teams in that group.  The only teams I'd put at greater than 25-1 odds of making the playoffs in the East right now are Columbus and Buffalo, and that's as much because of their goal differential and either their abysmal GF (Buffalo) or GA (Columbus) totals to date.  Similarly for like reasons I consider Philadelphia and Carolina longer shots at getting into the post season then the rest of the conference, including Toronto.

What's it all mean - it means that the Leagues quest for parity in the interest of keeping things interesting longer through the NHL Regular season is basically working.  To me that's a good thing, it means more games will matter longer into the season.  If you look at the rule change to the three man OT it also means that's working as there are fewer and fewer "shoot outs" (45 to date this season) and that's a good thing too, but to me it still means that now more than ever, every game should be worth three points - I'd love to see it where if a team wins in regulation they get three points while a win in OT or via shoot out is worth only two points.  That would mean the only real "tie breaker" that might matter is how you do versus Conference and Division opponents and everything else could be seen right up front throughout the season by your overall point total. 

In the meantime next up for our Washington Capitals will be tomorrow in Columbus against the Blue Jackets now coached by John Torterella - anyone heading to Columbus for the game please make sure to bring a big water bottle to the game in case the former Ranger's coach gets out of hand, okay.  Just kidding sort of.  That should be a good game except for the inevitable Ryan Johannson TOI tracker that inevitably will be some pre and post game discussion given the current media and rumor mill chatter.