Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve Musings - 12/24/2018

Wow, where does the time go? Its Christmas Eve and another year is almost over.  As I think over the past year, I can’t help but think over the last several years and think how fortunate and blessed my and my family’s lives have been.  We are all healthy and, by and large, we are all happy. Our lives are full and rewarding. Sure, we are challenged, from time to time, and there are those days that I’m frustrated or wish I could just magically wiggle my nose and magically solve something.  But when I think over our lots in life, I know we have been and are living very fortunate lives.  I don’t know the reason for that, so all I can conclude is, we are blessed.  All I can do is offer prayers of thanks and try to live a good life as best I can and give back where I can.  Thank you, Lord and thank you to my family and friends for your kindness and the generosity of your example, kindness and the gifts of your time, encouragement and friendship.  These are truly the core of my musings as I consider my lot in life this Christmas Eve. 

As I think about those things above, the enjoyment I get from many things in life seem shallow and certainly less important.  One of those shallow things I get joy from is watching and following professional sports, but I do find joy in them.  When I think of the professional hockey team I follow, I console myself in thinking about how much charity and joy I understand the Washington Capitals Players and Staff and the MSE foundation give others who are not as fortunate as me and my family.  Those things make me feel less shallow for following and supporting the Capitals and proud of the team and what it gives back to our community.  But with these sorts of bigger thoughts and feelings of thanks, I think my current blog musings about the Capitals should wait a couple of days.

As I think back and look forward this time on year, I’m thinking about how and what I can give back more myself, especially to our community and I’m likely to start doing that and also musing about it here from time to time to.  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Two Weeks Gone By; Six More Caps Games Played (4-2-0)

Well in the two weeks since my last blog post the Caps have played six more games; two home games and four on the road and compiled a 4-2-0 record in that period, despite still having two top six forwards out of the lineup injured and one veteran d-man also out. What to say about the Caps during this period - well first they are 8-2-0 in the last ten games and 4-2-0 in the last two weeks. What does that record say to me, well the Cup hangover is gone and they are back. That's the good news. I'm going to look back at the last two weeks in reverse order though, starting with last night's game.

Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets 12/8/2018

Well in many ways the best road game so far this season.  Out of lineup: Tom Wilson (upper body - concussion?); TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Brooks Orpik (Lower Body); healthy scratch: Christian Djoos; Riley Barber.  Starting Goaltenders: Braden Holtby; Sergei Bobrovsky.  Result 4-0 Caps win.  Where to start? Well, 1) welcome to the National Travis Boyd with his first NHL goal off a pretty nicely orchestrated and setup play by Alex Ovechkin; 2) welcome to the Caps scoring statistics and off the schneid Dmitri Jaskin; 3) awesome saves when the Blue Jackets surged by Holtby to get his second shutout of the season; 4) way to play the full 60 minutes with no passengers to get the win; and finally 5) way to display that fountain of youth and retake the NHL goal scoring lead, our Captain, Alex Ovechkin.  There really wasn't much not to like about this game if you're a Caps fan.  Final thought: I hope Blue Jackets' coach John Tortorella feels better soon, he really looked pale and under the weather as he apparently has been for a while, but the sweater is styling.

Capitals at Arizona Coyotes 12/6/2018

Well - I missed this game as I was on the road for work and didn't finish driving back home from NY until after the game ended.  Starting Goaltenders: Phoenix Copley; Adin Hill. Out of lineup: Tom Wilson (upper body - concussion?); TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Brooks Orpik (Lower Body - LTIR); healthy scratch: Madison Bowey.  Andre Burakovsky scored the GWG late in the third period, was named the first star but apparently didn't think he had a great game based on his post game comment: "This game is funny. Overall, I wasn't really there today, I had a tough one. Some nights, you have 1,000 chances and can't score. Some nights, you're struggling and you get one." Copley turned in a solid performance: 0.931 SV% stopping 27 of 29 SOG to earn his sixth win of the season and his record for the year is now 6-2-0-1 with a 2.95 GAA and 0.902 SV%.

Capitals at Vegas Golden Knights 12/4/2018

This ended up being somewhat an Olyde Type Hockey game thanks to the antics of one Ryan Reaves of theKnights and the Caps lost in the end by a score of 5-3.  Out of Line Up: TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Brooks Orpik (Lower Body - LTIR); healthy scratches: Jonas Siegenthaler; Travis Boyd. Out of Lineup for VGK: Max Pacioretty. Starting Goaltenders: Braden Holtby; Marc-Andre Fleury.  Result was a 5-3 regulation loss by the Capitals. Well highlights and low lights were: highlights: 1) Nate Schmidt scored twice and had an assist against his former team (us); 2) Jakub Vrana scored twice showing his speed and hands off; 3) Ovi scored his 20th goal of the season thus far; lowlights: 1) Ryan Reaves is trash for sure, pure unadulterated trash - it's not just his actions, targeting not just Wilson but Ovechkin and every other player he could the entire game until his ejection nope not just that but also his post game comment on the Wilson hit was out of line and unrepentant; 2) VGK's coaching staff - nobody plays like Reaves did for 14 shifts/10:48 TOI until the officials ejected him without doing so with the encouragement of his coach/coaching staff, also given the post game comments; 3) the fact the Caps didn't respond after Reaves took Wilson out of the game either physically or on the scoreboard to me is a low light and something I lay at the feet of the players and the coaching staff, but understandable in Butthead Bettman's NHL.  I'm just consoling myself with the fact that the next two games the Caps have played well and the thought that if this is the best game VGK can throw out there after losing the SCF and the first meeting this season to us, then I don't see them making the playoffs again this post season.

Anaheim Ducks at Capitals 12/2/2018

Worst Caps Home performance in ... I can't remember how long.  Out of Lineup: TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Brooks Orpik (Lower Body - LTIR); healthy scratches: Jonas Siegenthaler; Travis Boyd. Starting Goaltenders: Braden Holtby, John Gibson. Result 6-5 regulation loss by the Caps.  Where to start, well at the end of the first period the Caps were leading 3-1and had chased John Gibson from the net; midway through the second period they were leading 5-1; at the end of the second period the Caps were still leading 5-3 but momentum had shifted; at the end of the third period the Ducks had won it 6-5 after scoring 5 unanswered goals on the Capitals.  In between the 13:30 mark of the second period when Nic Down scored the Caps fifth goal and the end of the game, it seemed like they decided they could phone the rest of the game in most of the time and the few times they even shot on net, Ryan Miller (in for Gibson) rose to the challenge.  My conclusion is simple the Capitals played an uninspired second two periods and Todd Reirden got severely out coached by Randy Carlyle.  Carlyle's team was laying a huge egg when he pulled Gibson, and whatever he said to them or got them to say to themselves at the first intermission meant they knew to win you can't ever give-up not until the game is over.  Contrast that to how the Caps came out for the third period and the lack of adjustments by them to ensure they finished the game with the two points they should have gotten out of this contest.

New Jersey Devils at Capitals 11/30/2018

Backstrom with the Hat Trick and an assist; Holtby with a 33 save/ 0.917 SV%. Out of Lineup: TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Brooks Orpik (Lower Body - LTIR); healthy scratches: Jonas Siegenthaler; Travis Boyd. Starting Goaltenders: Braden Holtby, Keith Kinkaid. Result 6-3 Capitals Win.  A dominant game by Capitals first line:  Backstrom 3G, 1A; Ovechkin 1G, 2A; Tom Wilson 1G.  The post game discussion on this one was all around Wilson's match penalty for his hit on Brett Seney, which got him ejected even though I didn't think it was a hit to the head, targeting, etc. and based on Seney's post game comments, I don't think it was either.  NHL Player Safety also opted not to mete out any supplemental discipline and saw the event similarly to myself and Todd Reirden did.  That said, it's a reminder that Tom Wilson has to really think about every hit he makes.

Capitals at New York Islanders 11/26/2018

A solid road game against former Cap's Bench Boss' Islanders gets Caps two points in regulation.  Out of Lineup: TJ Oshie (upper body - concussion?); Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body)  Brooks Orpik (Lower Body - LTIR); healthy scratch: Jonas Siegenthaler. Starting Goaltenders: Braden Holtby, Thmas Greiss. A solid, solid road win marked by excellent play by the first line:  Tom Wilson 2G, 1A; Alex Ovechkin 1G, Nicklas Backstrom 3A and Braden Holtby 0.967 SV% (32/33). Result 4-1 win by our Washington Capitals.

This Week:

Next up this week will be three games: Tuesday at home against the Detroit Red Wings who are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games; Friday at Carolina against the Hurricanes who are 5-4-1 in their last 10 gams, and Saturday they host Buffalo who are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.  I'm looking forward to attending my next game for the Saturday game against the Sabres, they've been a surprise to me this season, I didn't expect them to be this good until next season or so. With the parity in the league this season, especially in the Eastern Conference where just 8 points/3-4 games separate the third place Sabres to the 13th Place Ottawa Senators, any team can beat any other team on a given night/day.  So this weeks games should be good but I'm still optimistic about the Caps getting 6 more points out of the next three games and if the Caps play all of them like they played they played last evening in Columbus.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Struggling to Find Time ... to Blog and Other Things Too

Well it's now been a little over 6 weeks since I last did a blog post where in I declared my intent to revive my blogging waves and my life is conspiring to make that hard by keeping me too busy now that I am out of the habit of blogging my ideas and thought, especially my Washington Capital elated thoughts every other day or so.  Alas I will still try ... dagnabbit, I WILL.

Well since my last blog post on October 7th, "OUR" Washington Capitals have played 21 additional games, been up and down, and now seem to be settling in for the remaining ~ 3/4 of the NHL season with the type of game and effort we grew accustomed to last season.  The Capitals are now 13-7-3 sitting just barely atop the Metropolitan Division and facing the NY Islanders coached by Barry Trotz , himself.  The Islanders are surprising everyone being a well coached team playing with great structure and showing the league there is "life after JT (John Tavares.)

The last two weeks the Caps played eight games and have compiled a 6-2-0 record.  The Caps now have First Line Tom Wilson back on the ice, are playing with both Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie out of the lineup; and with Brooks Orpik also out of the line-up.  Lots of guys are stepping up and making a difference but there is no doubt the Tom Wilson's return is helping to motivate the team, as is his play.  Alex Ovechkin is also playing awesomely, the 33 year old, generational talent LW has 5 G and 2 A in his last five games and now is on pace for a 6oG season,  Another guy stepping up to make sure Kuznetsov being out of the lineup doesn't hurt the Caps too badly is 31 year old Nicklas Backstroke.  Back is also playing pretty awesomely - he has 2G and 3A in the Caps Last five games and a 51.27% FO win rate and a total of 25 points (6G & 19A) in the 23GP for the season thus far.  If your counting that's on pace for 89 points this season.

Both John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov have stepped it u and Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos have elevated their games too to fill the gaps left by steady Eddie stay at home D-Man Brooks Orpik's absence.  Frankly  Matt Niskenan and Michael Kempny have also elevated their games so that's really good news.  Finally when Braden Holtby was out of the lineup for a couple of three games, Phoenix Copely showed me that all least for this season, he's the Caps solid answer for a backup goaltender.

In just an hour or so the Caps face off against Trotz and the Islanders - if when they win they will have a six game win streak going and will have clearly shaken the "Cup Hangover."

I'm predicting the Caps will maintain their structure and discipline as did the NY Rangers last week when they beat the Islanders 5-0. Since that game against the Rangers, the Isles have beaten the Devils and the Hurricanes in relatively low scoring affairs but they (the Islanders) scored 4 against the Devils and $ against the Hurricanes.  I'm predicting this game will be even lower scoring and the Caps will win 3-2 in Regulation.

Islander Players to Watch: Mathew Barzel & Leo Karmorov
Capitals Players to Watch:  Alex Ovechkin & Dmitry Orlov


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.