Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Has Sprung and You Know What That Means...

Sorry for the now almost six weeks since my last blogpost fellow musers.  I had some work related travel and a few other distractions with life in the meantime and lets face it, this blog isn't really a priority with me like it was several years ago.  Also I really didn't have all that much to write about
.  At the time of my last blogpost on February 12th, our Washington Capitals were pretty much in the same place, standings-wise as they are now, well on their way to a playoff spot but not a shoe-in by any means.  In the ensuing almost six weeks and 22 games the Capitals have gathered 8 more ROW than they had on 2/12 and an 11-7-0 record (22 more standings points).  That's not as good by any means as the Ottawa Senators who now basically trail the Caps by just 1 game in the Eastern Conference standings (since 2/12 the Senators have been the hottest team in hockey with a blistering 16-2-1 record).  I mention the Senators just to illustrate why I believe the Capitals while on the right track are not shoe-ins for the playoffs.  Six weeks ago did anyone in the Hockey world think the then 10th place (in the Conference) Senators would be in control of their own destiny right now as far as making the playoffs.  I doubt it - at least other than the Senators themselves maybe.

Right now to me it looks like to be sure your team makes the playoffs in the East, they're going to need 98+ points and at least 39 ROW.  Are the Caps on track for that - simply put if they keep playing just under 0.600 hockey between now and tax day, yes; if they backslide to 0.500 they will find themselves in the dogfight for the top spot on the bubble with Boston, Ottawa (can any team keep up the pace they are on - that remains to be seen), and to a lesser degree, Florida if the Panthers stay on their current 0.650 pace or pick it up a little. So here's how I see the Eastern Conference regular season ending.  The current top three teams: Rangers, Canadians, and Lightning will be the top three teams; in the Metropolitan Division I just don't see anyone who is within striking distance (Islanders, Penguins, or our Capitals) playing that much better than 0.600 the rest of the way - the schedules are too tough for all three teams and right now the Islanders are 0.400 in their last 10 games while the Penguins are 0.450.  Additionally all three of the teams chasing the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division are 4.5 - 6 games behind the Rangers and have less than 10 games left in their seasons and even if the Senators basically "win out" they end up with 105 points,  so assuming the Rangers who've been 8-1-1 in their last 10 games regress to 0.500 hockey in their last 11 games of the season and finish with 110 points they still likely win the Division and are one of the top 3 seeds in the Conference. Nope the scoreboard watcher's excitement here in the East is the battles for seeding between the Red Wings, Islanders, Penguins and Capitals; and the battle between Ottawa, Boston and at least for a few more games, Florida for the final available playoff spot in the Conference. 

As far as the battle between the Red Wings, Islanders, Penguins and Capitals for seeding, I'll note that while all three of their rivals have games in hand on the Caps, only the Capitals have a better than 0.500 in their last 10 games.  Additionally in my view while Detroit and the Islanders may have a slightly easier schedule but I subjectively feel the Caps remaining schedule is the toughest of those four while the Penguins is the weakest/easiest.  All that said I don't think it matters that much.  The Conference beyond 1, 2, and 3 is wide open and once the second season starts any of the eight teams that get in after the next three weeks could win the Conference and make it deep to the Stanley Cup finals as far as I can tell.

Out West while Dallas is trying to make it interesting playing to an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games they basically have to win out in their last 9 games and finish with 98 points to be sure of making the playoffs, maybe they could loose one and finish with 96 if  both Minnesota and Winnipeg somehow choke/tank but given both of those teams are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games the odds of that happening are miniscule, IMO.  It's even doubtful to me that the LA Kings who are now 1 1/2 games behind the Jets and 1 game behind Calgary with 10 games to play get in though it will be a few more games before on can "call that ball." Otherwise it's all just a battle for seeding for 1-3 between Anaheim, Nashville, and Saint Louis and for 4-8 between Chicago, Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota, Winnipeg *and/or, if they somehow make it, LA.  The only team in that mix NOT playing 0.600+ hockey in their last ten games are the Predators though and they already have 96 points and 36 ROW so they'd finish with 100+ and ~40 ROW even on their current (last 10 games) 0.350 pace.

So Caps fans next up those pesky Devils from Newark on Thursday evening here at Verizon Center and I say....


Thursday, February 12, 2015

How Much Tougher To Play Against Are the '14-'15 Caps than the '13-'14 Version?

Well if you're wondering just how much tougher a team to play against this season's version of the Washington Capitals are than last seasons, I say look no further than one particular column in the NHL Standings.  I'm not a total "fancy stats" guy, in the end I'm really a bottom line kind of guy.  To me to answer the question: "are this season's Washington Capitals Much Tougher a team to beat than last season's model?"  I say the answer is a resounding "YES!" and point to the NHL Standings column "ROW" - Regulation & overtime Wins - last season through all 82 games the Caps tallied a total of twenty eight (28).  This season through fifty five (55) games the Caps now have twenty seven (27), that's why this season the Caps are on pace to total 100+ points and last season they totaled 90 when the season was over.  So if you're "STH" - Season Ticket Holder start saving your sheckels to pay for your playoff tickets and keep rooting for the Caps to keep playing like they've been playing since the start of December.

The Caps are not playing tonight and to be honest I dozed off at the backend of the second period during last evening "tilt" in San Jose, so if you're looking for a good recap/summer go on over to Peerless's Blog

In the meantime if you are going to watch tonight's games I put this little guide so if you like me are a Capitals fan you can easily identify who you should be rooting for this evening.

In the meantime, I'm already thinking about the Caps next game in LA at Staples Center and hoping "our boys" are charged up to put on a good show and snatch another two points in front of their Dads as it's the start of the annual Fathers Trip.



Friday, February 6, 2015

It's All Good As Far As I can Tell In "CapsLand" Today....

Well fellow Caps fans in the week that has occurred since my last public musings/blog post as far as I can tell it's pretty much all good here in "Capsland." 

From a "big picture perspective" the Caps remain on track for a 100 point/40+ ROW season even though currently they are in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as the third place NY Rangers have 3 games in hand on the Caps.  However the overall metropolitan Division race has tightened as only three points separate the Caps from the First Place Islanders.  Additionally the top of the Eastern Conference Standings have also tightened, even though 7 points separate the seventh place Caps from the first place Tampa Bay Lightning, only three points separate them from the Third Place Montreal Canadiens. Additionally there are now 8 points between the Caps and the currently "wrong side of the bubble" ninth 9th place Florida Panthers.  All things to ponder, muse/consider with just three weeks left before the 2014-2015 NHL Season trade deadline.

The Caps have played four games this past week racking up a 2-1-1 record, that 0.625 hockey, more importantly they had a GAA of slightly under 1.50 in those four games including a less than stellar defensive performance against the Saint Louis Blues where they allowed a high of 40 SOG by the Blues and lost 4-3.   Backup Goalie Justin Peters posted a SV% of 0.900 in the Saint Louis game but the Caps were basically just slightly outplayed by the Blues in every facet of the game and neither team played even close to their best hockey in front of wither Peters or Blues goaltender Brian Elliott who posted a 0.917 SV% against 36 Capitals SOG.  To me the second two periods of the game were the best goaltending we've seen from Peters since the start of the season and give me cause for hope.  I feel much of the fan calls for Peter's head are as much a result of just how well Braden Holtby is playing as they are caused by the fact that to date Peters has played just that much under where the Caps need him to play.  I've said it before, in the Caps are on their game and our net-minder posts a 0.915+ SV% two regulation goals should get the team at least one standings point and three goals all but guarantees a two point ROW night.  Hopefully in his next outing Peters gets more team defense in front of him and he notches his gam up from a 0.900 SV% to a 0.915+ SV%.  The other three games the Caps played this week were well played, if not excellent+ efforts all, even the 1-0 OT loss to Montreal at Belle Centre.  My view of the Montreal Game is the loss was due to two words - Carey Price, the Caps were very good up in Montreal but it was a night where Carey Price basically stole two points from Washington. 

The other two games were just awesome clinics in one way or  another.  Tuesday evening the reigning Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings came into town and faced Braden Holtby and the Capitals and all the Caps did is have Holtby pitch a perfect game 4-0 shutout while Troy Brouwer-Power scored two goals in 16:10 TOI while playing in his 500th NHL game.  As others noted afterward it was as complete and perfect execution of the Caps game plan as we've seen thus far this season. Against Ottawa last evening in Ottawa the Caps put on a clinic in three things a) how to properly respond to an opposing team opening the scoring in a game; and b) how to kill off penalties when the calls are going against you (Senators had 4 PP, Caps 0); and finally c) how to play with and protect a one goal lead in the final period of a game, other than the penalties, that is.  Finally a simple observation, perhaps only in Ottawa does a one tem get basically outplayed in pretty much every aspect of the game, lose 2-1 and still somehow end up having two of the three named stars of the game. 

In any case now looking ahead to this coming weeks games, the Caps have two home games this weekend - the Ducks tonight and the Flyers on Sunday afternoon.  Then they leave for a West Coast/California road trip facing the Sharks in San Jose on Wednesday evening; the Kings at LA's Staples Center on Saturday Evening and then the Ducks on the other side of LA LA Land in Anaheim at Honda Center on Sunday Evening before jetting home. So over the next nine (9) days the Caps have five games - 2 at home and 3 on the other end of a pretty darn long road trip.

Before we look forward and muse about tonight's Duck-Caps tilt at Verizon Center a couple of season to date notable statistics and associated musings:

1)  Along with his score of his thirty second goal of the season last evening, Alex Ovechkin returned to his position atop the NHL goal scoring leaders in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. As noted elsewhere, Ovechkin is just the fifth player in the "modern era" to put up thirty or more goals in his first ten NHL seasons and as long as the stars stay aligned for him, he could possibly "notch" his sixth 50 goal season this year.  He also has 18 assists and is + 13 for people that care about those things as well.  Oh and over the past couple of weeks he gave a car away to a charity, you might have heard about it cause it means that unlike last season when he was a selfish, self-absorbed, person and not very good/incomplete hockey player, this season he's both great at hockey and a really, really excellent human being.  Don't you just love it when a young man turns his life around?  ... Just kidding but lets be clear Ovi is now a great person having a great season, and apparently Sidney Crosby is as close to an enigmatic professional hockey player as someone not born in Russia can get. Maybe this off-season Sid can retain whoever counseled Ovi last summer.

2) Braden Holtby is now in the top five NHL Goalies stats for GAA and Save Percentage with season to date numbers of GAA 2.14; SV% of 0.925.  Holtby is also number two in shutouts with six (6) and and sixth in wins with 25.  Solid numbers given his league leading forty - five (45) games played and 2,634:04 time on ice this season to date.

3) Nicklas Backstrom has slowly climbed his own way up the league leaders overall scoring leaders to fourth with 54 points; Nicklas is also second on the "assists" leaders board with 38 apples.  Also not too shabby.

4) The Capitals now have six players on the roster with 11 or more goals; eleven (11) players with 15 or more points; and eighteen different players have scored at least one goal. 

5) Among NHL Defensemen, John Carlson is 10th in scoring and Mike Green is 14th with 35 and 30 points respectively.  Overall as a team to date the Caps are 9th in the Goals Against Department with just 130 goals against allowed and sixth in differential with a +23.  No doubt this is a much tougher team to play against then the Capitals teams of the past two seasons.

Now about tonight - I'm rooting for another two point night for the Capitals and the way I see it they'll get the ROW.  I figure the Ducks should be tired from scoring 5 goals on the Predators and Pekke Renne last evening in Smashville and flying to DC last night - that flying stuff really makes those guys wings/arms tired as I hear it.  Seriously, another great test for the Capitals, if they can keep playing like they have for the last four games, smart, disciplined, structured hockey the Caps could win tonight against a team coached by their old coach. 

I'm calling it 4-2 final for the Caps with the fourth goal into the empty net with under 1:30 to play.


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: