Monday, December 31, 2007

Preview Caps-Senators Open 2008 In Rematch

To say news is sparse in scouting and thinking about the Caps - Senators game tomorrow at the Verizon Center would be putting it lightly. Since I didn't take today off and go see practice my research is relegated to looking at what information others can and are providing. Well its not much, the hockey news in cyberspace is positively maddening.

TSN hasn't had a good update on either team in over a week. The Ottawa Sun's Sports Section since the Caps bested the Senator's on Saturday Night has been hard to come by, but a poll of Sun's readers on hockey fights shows folks in and around Canada's National Capital Region still feel fighting and aggressive play is an integral part of the game. Poll results follow:

"Do you still like to watch a good NHL fight every now and then?

Total Votes for this Question: 597 " As of 11:36 PM on EST n 12/31/2007.

Another thing in addition to an affinity for Labatts Blue I share with many Ottawa residents; I guess as residents of two National Capital regions we are as they say "simpatico". Other than the ongoing "supposed" goalie controversy; it appears that Ottawa Senators tough guy Brian McGratten is looking for an extra special "instigating penalty" and guaranteeing himself that in a bizarre way being quoted as saying: "I'll try to fight him again. I'll try to fight him every time we play. I fought him two years ago when we were in Philly. We'll see if he wants to go again on Tuesday." And for those who caught the Brashear-Niel bout, only a very partisan Ottawa Sun writer like Dan Brennan could memorialize the beat down the Caps tough guy put on Niel as follows: "Neil, whose face was unmarked after the battle, only tossed a couple. He did, however, wind up on top of his opponent after ending the scrap with a right. " Prior to the knockdown by Niel, Brashear landed 18 (count em at 18 answered solid blows to Niel. Come on it wasn't even a close round to score and did I mention the final score of the game was Capitals 8 - Senators 6. The Sun's press corps is grasping at straws here - if they want to write about something positive all they need to do is project the current Senators record or the last 10 games to the end of the season vs. the league leading Red Wings and speculate on whether their Senators can win the Presidents Trophy along with their first Stanley Cup since 1926-27 this year.

To me the story is the continued lack of respect the hockey world has for what the Caps did during the month of December. Bruce Garrioch's drivel in his column on Sunday totally discounts the fact the Caps totally dominated the Senators for the first 40 minutes of Saturday Night's game by talking about the fact he thinks the Senators didn't "wake up" till the third period. Give me a break Bruce these are major league pros - the Caps came out flying determined to capture 2 points instead of 1 on Saturday. The first minute of the game Alex Semin served notice when he picked Chris Phillips and Martin Gerber's pockets and put the Caps up 1-NIL with just over 1 minute of play down. While the Caps best hockey was not the third period of Saturday's game neither was the Senators. The Senators hadn't generally let up three or more goals in home games this season; Saturday night even though they outscored the Caps by one goal in the third, they let up three gaols in the third period alone. It was an ugly third period for both teams, the difference of the game is for the Caps the first two periods were pretty well played. The third period was an offensive slug fest that the Senators didn't win decisively - remember they payed a lot of the final two and half minutes of the game with their goalie pulled.

In any case maybe the goalie controversy in Ottawa could result in Ray Emery coming to the Caps and the Caps will pick up another scorer from somebody else in the off season. I figured in Garrioch, a professional journalist, could engage in dumb, baseless speculation about where Alexander Ovechkin will be next year, a simple minded blogger like me could do similarly. Okay so if you read the story the link goes to maybe there's not much of a controversy but the simple fact in the salary capped NHL is you it's really hard to afford two #1 caliber goalies and at the end of the season, especially if the Senators go to the finals or win the Cup, keeping both Emery & Gerber is going to be really tough given Salary Cap pressures.

On the Caps side Nicklas Backstrom has a cold but is probable for tomarrow's game; Quintin Laing has a bruised leg is day to day. Clark and Johnson are still out tomorrow. Congratulations to Alexander Ovechkin - the great 8 is the NHL's first star for this past week with 7 points in three games.

My optimism continues as noted in Dump & Chase:"Washington is 5-2-3 in its last 10 games. Only one Eastern Conference team has accumulated more points than the Caps’ 13 in their last 10 games: Ottawa with 15." Also while this is starting to sound cliche', tomorrow afternoon's game is again pivotal. The Senators will no doubt be charged up, and Verizon Center hasn't historically been the toughest road game in the league, the Caps have a chance of winning two in a row against the division leading Senators. For the Caps to win they will once again need to come out flying and hitting "on all cylinders" for all sixty minutes of the game. A solid performance by the Defense, Olie the Goalie, and some scoring by Lines 3&4, in addition to awesome play by lines 1&2, like on Saturday night, is all the Caps need to take this season's series from the Senators 3-1. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Caps Win Shootout In Ottawa 8-6

The Caps came out flying against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place tonight. Just over 1 minute into the game, Alexander Semin took the puck from behind the Senator net and put it into the goal right in front of a stunned Martin Gerber. Semin's goal, his 6th of the season, was unassisted. Slightly over 3:40 later, the Caps power play, which had been dormant their prior three games, came alive when Alexander Ovechkin netted his 27th goal of the season and first goal of the night. Ovechkin's tally was assisted by Mike Green and Semin. At 11:36 of the period, Shoane Morrison took an interference call and the Senators' Daniel Alfredsonn netted his 23rd goal of the season with helpers from Wade Redden and Dany Heatley on the Senators' power play. As the first period ended, the Caps took a 2-1 lead into the locker room. Each team had taken two penalties and the game looked like it was going to be a good, close typical NHL Eastern Conference relatively defensive battle, even though the Caps had out shot the Senators 11-2.

The second period started with the Caps Nicklas Backstrom getting a tripping penalty at 0:43 which the Caps successfully killed off. At about 3:13 Backstrom, just out of the sin bin, made a nifty backhand move to outlet Ovechkin who then executed a textbook give and go with Tom Poti that resulted in the AO getting his second goal of the night (28th of the season) and giving the Caps a 3-1 lead. The Caps then had to kill off a questionable call tripping penalty that Tomas Fleischmann got at 4:06 before the Senators Mike Fisher got a questionable call for holding that went the Caps way at 5:43. After the brief 4-4 that resulted, the Caps power play converted a goal by Michael Nylander that was a beautiful setup by Rookie Nicklas Backstrom. It was one of those plays that Backstrom has made all month where he looks like a seasoned veteran rather than a rookie. It was also his second assist of the night/period. At this point (6:41 in the second period) the Caps were in clear control of the game by a score of 4-1 and in every statistical category but faceoffs won. At 8:49, Shean Donovan was called for holding and the Senators penalty killing unit played with abandon determined not to yield another goal to the resurgent Capitals. In fact a little over 1 minute into the penalty the Senators sprung their team captain, Daniel Alfredsson on a 1-0 breakaway that resulted in Mike Green interfering with him from behind and Alfredsson getting a penalty shot. If tonight's game was going to be storybook for Caps fans, Olie Kolzig would have stoned Alfredsson, but that was not the case; Alfredsson scored on a set of beautiful moves and a pretty goal at 10:06 re-energizing the Senators for much of the rest of the second period. At about the 18:00 mark, the Caps surged in response to a push by the Senators, siezed control of the pace of the game, and played the majority of the final two minutes of the second period in the Senators zone. After a couple of late scoring chances, Nicklas Backstrom got his first goal and third point of the night with assists from Victor Kozlov and Alexander Ovechkin with 00:03 left on the clock for the period (19:57). At the end of two it was Caps 5, Senators 2 and this game was looking more like a Western Conference shootout, but the Capitals still seemed to have things well in hand. The period ended with a hockey fight between the Senators Chris Neal and the Capital's tough guy Donald Breshear that saw "Brash" land numerous good punches in a fight started by Neal before Neal finally responded, they fell to the ice and the refs/linesman could break the heavyweight bout up. In addition to the fight, Brashear played a pretty solid game even though he only had 6:34 of ice time.

To say "all hell broke loose" in the third period would be cliche', but the goal total between both teams in the third period was seven (7). The Senators scored first on a slap shot by Jason Spezza at 4:08 and at 6:41 Mike Fisher scored his first of the night, and the Senators second shorthanded goal of the evening as well, pulling the Senators to within one at 5-4. The pace of play clearly picked up at this point and both teams responded playing exceptionally exciting hockey. It was clear somebody was going to score again but who? At 9:13, during a line change, Tomas Fleschman passed the puck to an oncoming Alexander Semin who drove into the Senators zone, with some excellent stick handling, before pulling up and passing the puck over to Michael Nylander who put the puck into the other side of the net, top shelf, on Gerber and putting the Caps up by two goals once again. At 11:38, Caps penalty killing machine and defensive forward, Dave Steckel was called for holding when the Caps were trapped in their zone for too long and he was pushing to try and break up a well developed play by the Senators awesome first line. On the resulting Senators power play, Mike Fisher netted his 13th of the season for his second goal of the night and the Senators were once again within one at 6-5 Caps. Clearly this game was not your usual defensive one goal Eastern Conference night any longer. The Senators sellout crowd was again energized and it seemed all bets might be off for the Caps. However, a little over a minute later, at 13:46 after getting a pass from Jeff Schultz; Alexander Ovechkin netted his third goal of the night (the third hat trick of his career) putting the Caps two goals up again at 7-5.

Since great teams never say die and never give up, and the Eastern Conference leading Senators are having another great year, that's exactly what they did at this point - "kicking it up another notch" as Emeril would say. The Capitals responded as well, Ovechkin began double-shifting, clearly the adrenalin of the hat trick trumped whatever negative effects his cut thigh was having. At about 17:30, the Senators pulled Martin Gerber for the extra skater and at 17:55 Mike Fisher scored his third of the night, getting his hat trick and making the score 7-6 Caps. The Caps responded and made several good plays, breaking up Senator rushes, and making it hard for the Senators to set up again, despite the fact they again were playing 6 skaters on 5. At just over 19:00, Ovechkin got a bouncing puck took it out and pushed it toward the net looking like he'd get his fourth of the night then, but it hit the outside of the post and icing was called on the Caps. The Senators took the next face off; Olie Kolzig made one of his 16 saves of the night and Ovechkin broke up another Senators play. This time Ovie pushed a solid wrist shot down the center of the ice and scored his fourth of the night; an empty netter at 19:32 as the six Senator skaters on the ice could do nothing but watch him collect his 30th goal of the season.

It wasn't pretty, but it was exciting to watch. The Caps got two points they very much needed on a night when all the teams in the Southeast Division played and the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning all lost, which means the Capitals are no longer in the cellar. The sole SE Division Cellar dwellers are now the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the rest of the Eatern Conference, Toronto and the Boston Bruins also lost however the Flyers and the Atlanta Thrashers won. The number 7 and 8 teams in the Eastern Conference are now Buffalo and the Bruins each tied with 40 points. The Caps are five points (2 1/2 games) back with 35 points. The point range between the final four playoff spots in the Conference is 1 game (42 points for # 5 Pittsburgh; 40 points for # 8 Boston); and the Caps have just completed their best month of hockey since the end of the 2002-2003 season.

Despite the final result, there were some things to look to improve tonight, while statistically Tom Poti had a good night (+/- +2; 23:11 of Ice Time and 1 assist), but when he looks at the game tapes he'll likely be unhappy with his play during the first period Alfredsonn goal; the Spezza goal; and the last two goals by Mike Fisher. In particular the two Fisher tip-ins where he gave Fisher enough room in front of Olie to make the plays will likely catch his eye. Since Poti is the team's number one defenseman, even though his offensive play tonight was very good, he got burned a couple of times in the Capitals end. As the number one, mature, go to defensive guy, he's just expected to be held to a higher standard. Mike Green's move, that resulted in Alfredsson's penalty shot probably wasn't a smart penalty either nor were the two other times he got caught too far up and yielded breakaways. But Green is young and other than the Alfredsson move, he got away with his mistakes because Kolzig made the saves. Poti is a big guy as are Schultz, Jurcina and Morrisonn, when those guys are on the ice, nobody should be able to camp in the low or mid-slot in front of the Caps net. On the other hand, Olie Kolzig had a better night than the stats indicate. Statistically, Kolzig stopped 16 of 22 (a SV % of just 0.727); but there were at least three times when he came up with the big save on the Senators big scorers that kept the Caps ahead. On the downside, for the first game in several, the third and fourth line did NOT contribute to the scoring.

When you go in to the Division Leader's home ice and come away with two points, you can't get too negative, but the third period of this game was not the best hockey the Caps have played this month. Bottom line: a two point night on the road - thanks for the excitement Caps!

Next game - home at Verizon Center, against these same Ottawa Senators. Hope to see you ring in the New Year; I'll be there rooting for two points to start 2008. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Loking Ahead: Tonight's Caps vs. Senators in Ottawa

Tonight, the Caps travel to Ottawa and take on the Eastern Conference leading Senators. These two teams last met on November 4th in Ottawa's Scotiabank Place and the Caps broke the Senators 8 game winning streak with a convincing 4-1 victory. The Senators are 9-1-1 in their last 11 and have more players in hot streaks in their lineup than any other team in the league right now. Leading the hot streak for the Sens has been goaltender Martin Gerber who has a GAA of 1.90 and a save % of 0.940 in his last five games played. The Senators first line of Alfredsonn-Spezza-Heatley has been on fire the past five games and will be a formidable challenge for the Caps to contain. The Caps enter the game off an overtime road loss in Pittsburgh, Thursday; while the Senators last game resulted in a 5-2 home victory over the NY Islanders that same evening.

The big hockey news out of Ottawa the last couple of days has surrounded a "goaltending controversy" caused apparently by some frustration on "backup" Ray Emery's lack of playing time so far this season. Caps fans will find this a bit ironic since their backup goalie is sidelined for two to four weeks due to an injury suffered in the last game against Pittsburgh. Emery is in his fourth NHL season and led the Senators to the Stanley Cup finals last season after Gerber was sidelined early in the season; this season the shoe is on the other foot and Gerber is now the hot number 1 goalie in Canada's capital city. After several days of speculative and less than flattering stories, Emery met with his teammates and subsequently the press to clear the air and indicated his frustrations are centered inwardly on his own performance and motivation issues and he does not want them to be the center of a controversy or a distraction to the team. He also indicated that he doesn't "think" he wants to be traded and likes playing with the Senators and their chances for a successful season. Whether this is the end of the controversy or not remains to be seen.

Regardless of the supposed Senators goalie controversy, it'll be a tough game for the Caps and they need to once again break an Ottawa winning streak (this time three games) to capture a much needed two points. Ovechkin has a couple of stitches in a deep thigh cut but will likely play. It's also likely that Olie Kolzig will again be in goal as the Caps try and once again frustrate the Senators who have outscored their opponents 47-25 in their last 11 games. The probable line combinations for the Caps are:
Forwards -
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 25-Kozlov
43-Fleischmann, 92-Nylander, 28-Semin
18-Pettinger, 39-Steckel, 21-Laich
87-Brashear, 15-Gordon, 10-Bradley Washington
Defensemen -
26-Morrisonn, 52-Green
3-Poti, 23-Jurcina
2-Pothier, 55-Schultz

Goaltenders: 35-Cassivi, 37-Kolzig.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Potential BCS Nightmare That Could Lead To Justice

Controversy continues to surround the question of the College Division I Football Championship. Should there be a playoff or should things stay the way they are with Bowls. This year because of the chaos of the regular season, the controversy did nothing but intensify. Ostensibly, on January 7th, LSU will play Ohio State for the BCS National Championship.

Ohio State comes into the game ranked number 1 at 11-1, and having won their conference the Big 10 at 7-1. LSU comes in ranked number 2 with an 11-2 record and having won their conference championship (SEC) game against the Tennessee Volunteers 21-14. The week before the final games of the season it was doubtful either of these two teams would be in the BCS Championship. During the regular season both had held the number 1 ranking before suffering losses to teams that computers said they should have beat. LSU did it twice! However, LSU also is the only team in the BCS standings to have beaten 6 Top 25 teams on their schedule, leading one to openly wonder how the computers could rank OSU's schedule strength higher, another anomaly in the algorithmic world that is the BCS.

There is one undefeated team in the BCS, but since it's not from a "big name conference", Hawaii is ranked 10th (12-0 and Mountain West Conference Champions) in the BCS standings and will face 5th ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 1st. Other major bowl match ups on this New Years weekend are: #3 Virginia Tech (11-2 and ACC Champions) vs # 8 Kansas (11-1 Big 12 North Regular Season Champs but playoff losers to BCS#6 Missouri 11-2 ). Missouri, #6 in the BCS Standings will play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas finished their SEC season with a 50-48 overtime win over LSU, a 4-4 conference record and an 8-4 regular season. The Razorbacks are not in the BCS Top 25 and are ranked highest (24th) in the Coaches Poll. Why the Razorbacks are in a major bowl over so many other BCS ranked teams like: BCS # 25 Connecticut (9-3 overall, 5-2 and second in the Big East) who plays today in the Meineke Car Car Bowl, BCS # 23 Auburn (8-4 Overall and 5-3 in the same division of the same conference as the Razorbacks) or BCS # 15 Clemson (9-3 overall and 5-3 in the ACC) who meet on New Years Eve in the Chik-fil-a Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) in Atlanta; or the following additional teams all of whom are ranked higher than the Razorbacks in the BCS standings: #24 Boise State (who, lost a tight one in the minor bowl they made), #22 Cincinnati (8-3 in the regular season and winners of the "Papa John's Bowl" against Southern Miss on December 22nd so now with an overall record of 9-3), #20 Virginia (9-3 overall) who play in the generally lesser thought of Gator Bowl on New Years Day, #19 Texas (9-3 regular season and 52-34 winners over ASU in the Holiday Bowl on 12/27), #18 Wisconsin, #17 BYU (who finished the regular season 10-2, then won a rematch with the UCLA Bruins one of the two teams they lost to in the "Las Vegas Bowl" on December 22nd) is an question and indictment on whatever integrity the BCS purports to have. In the interest of brevity, I won't go through the other 5 or 10 teams clearly as deserving or more deserving of a major bowl bid then the Razorbacks.

I think there is ample data to point to the issues with the current "hybrid" BCS format. My points on the topic are simple: either have a playoff or don't; but if you don't institute a playoff then stop trying to make it sound like there is any reasonable level of objectivity or fairness in the current BCS Bowl Championship Series format. Would a 16 or 32 team tournament be perfect - heck no - but from an objectivity perspective it would be a lot more objective then what's there now. How would I do icould it be made to work? Simple keep the BCS basically as it is - top 25 rankings by the current imperfect algorithms get in automatically - but level off some of the advantages on strength of schedule, year to year, based on prior year tournament results for strength of conferences (a simple algorithm could be put in place for this so humans don't have to feel the need to manipulate it). Then have a selection committee (composed of sportswriters and coaches) to select the 7 final spots/seeds "at large." The tournament could be held starting the third weekend of December 32 teams, 16 games on one three or four day weekend - 4 days, 4 games a day it would be a television bonanza and big bucks for the NCAA. The sweet 16 games would then be two weeks later and could be played as the match ups for the current "major bowls". Two weeks after that would be the final four - two games on a Saturday and another financial bonanza for the NCAA. Finally, the National Championship Game held on Super Bowl Weekend a day or two before the super bowl. It's "legit" and it extends the current season only three weeks, it doesn't "upset" the current BCS Bowls or the current conference championship series, in fact the NCAA could mandate that all major conferences should have a playoff tournament - take that elitist Big 10. "Just sayin'" I think that's how to fix the mess we currently have and if you don't like that then lets just go back to what we had and drop the "fake" BCS title game on January 7th - this year proves it's meaningless and it'll get worse if/when LSU beats OSU and we have a "National Champion" with two losses while there will likely be several teams with 1 (or in Hawaii's case possibly 0) losses who can lay claim to the title as well.

Here's a scenario that really makes this year's BCS issues apparent for you. Start with Hawaii blowing out Georgia by 14 or more points in the Sugar Bowl. If Hawaii can make that happen and another set of numerous cards looks like this: in the Orange Bowl Virginia Tech beats Kansas but barely; in the Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma losses to a resurgent WVA by 7-10 points; in the Rose USC loses, basically at home, to Illinois who already has a 9-3 record so both teams finish the season 10-3; in the Capital One Bowl Michigan hands Florida their 4th loss and both teams finish the season 8-4; in the Gator Bowl it really doesn't matter who wins between BCS un-ranked 8-4 Texas Tech and BCS #20 9-3 Virginia as far as the standings in the top 10 are concerned; in the Outback Bowl BCS #18 Wisconsin (9-3) play BCS #16 Tennessee (9-4) in another game that is unlikely to affect the top 10 let alone the top 5. What could/would things look like after New Years day if things play out with these "upsets", etc. occur in a season that has seen so many twists. Well a 13-0 Hawaii would/should be in the Top Five if not ranked Third before the BCS Championship Game in at least one poll, if not the BCS standings. Then what happens if on January 7th the game is a stinker and squeaker that LSU barely wins in the last seconds of regulation? Since this is something LSU has done a couple times this season, and Ohio State is likely to have again been over-coached and under lots of pressure, this result isn't beyond possibility. How can you then look at a 13-0 Hawaii and not give them a share of the National Championship when every other viable contender has two or more losses and isn't playing exceptionally well at the end of the season?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Caps Capture 1 Point On Road At Pittsburgh - Charlie Wilson's War: A Must See in my Book

It's hard to feel disappointed when you grab a point on a road game in a different city from where you played the night before, but that's what most fans and the Capitals themselves probably are after last nights 4-3 OT loss to the Penguins. I started to write my report on the game but decided to summarize the high points and decided instead to take a couple paragraphs and also tell you about how much I enjoyed the movie I saw before the game.

Game Summary:

1) Bottom Line: The Caps deserved two points and got one.

2) I like others who really couldn't see the whole thing, since I watched the game on TV and some of the incident was off camera, will forever feel that while you could stretch and say Shoane Morrisonn MIGHT have deserved the roughing penalty in the third, at the same time Malkin should probably have been called for interference. However, all things considered no whistles should have been blown at that time, and the game allowed to proceed.

3) Olie Kolzig played excellently and really can't be faulted for either of the two goals scored on him. The first would have taken a miracle to stop and the second was a combination super play between one of the league's three leading centers and setup men to the leagues best offensive defenseman. If Kolzig can keep the performance bar where he's had it the past two games, goaltending will not be any reason for the Caps not to win the rest of this season.

4) Brent Johnson is out 2-4 weeks and the Caps have recalled Fredric Cassivi from Hershey today.

5) For the second time in a row, the Caps outplayed the Pens and lost, so it probably goes to say that nothing anyone writes will make fans or the team feel better about that.

6) The Caps next two games are a home and home against the hot (8-1-1 in their last 10) Ottawa Senators; the Caps need the 4 points a lot more then the Senators so it should be a fun two games to watch.

7) If there's justice in the world, on January 21st when the Caps next play the Pens (in Pittsburgh) the hockey gods will ensure all puck bounces, etc. go the Caps way, the Caps will play that game as well as they did last nights AND have a one sided victory over a team that has been their nemesis since the lockout. Oh and just for good measure, Jaromir Jagr will be blanked in the Rangers vs Bruins game on the 20th AND the Rangers vs. Thrashers game on the 22nd. (Who says I can't be "a little partisan" or hold a grudge? Remember Caps Fans you and the Caps are still paying part of his salary this year so the least he should do is give us a few reasons to smile and play as half hearted there as he did here a couple games a season.)

8) If you're keeping track, the Caps have captured 15 of 24 possible points so far in the month of December. (That's 0.625 hockey.) They are continuing to claw their way up to respectability and are clearly not a team to be taken lightly at home or away. Putting the quality of hockey, Caps fans have been watching since the coaching change, in perspective: if the Caps had played the way they have playing the last month, for the entire season, they would have 47 or 48 points. At 47 points, the Caps would have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, and the third best record in the league. If that isn't justification for removing the interim label from Bruce Boudreau's title, nothing is. For that reason, along with the fact they are only 6 points/3 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, I continue to hope the team and us fans have something to do in April besides play golf.

Now a side note. Yesterday before the game I went and saw Charlie Wilson's War; I loved the picture and am telling all my friends, acquaintances, etc. that it is a great movie, and a must see. Tom Hanks gives his usual fantastic performance and the story is entertaining, not over-blown and very interesting. There's a lot to talk about but I don't want to spoil the movie for anybody so I won't share any specifics. It's just the stars are stars, the story is great, the gratuitous sex is gratuitous, but well done but attractive extras. There is both drama and comedy in the movie that is appropriately told. I always love Tom Hanks and find it ironic that a guy who can pull off parts like these (Philadelphia, Cast Away, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan, etc.) started as a comedian that played a cross dresser to get a cheap apartment in a short lived TV series (Kip Wilson in Bosom Buddies). Granted it's not Bruce Boudreau in Slap Shot, but it's a helluva entertaining film, and Hanks' costars Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams all turn in wonderful performances as well. I can recommend that everyone go see this movie, have a good time, then come to Verizon Center on Tuesday and cheer the Caps on in what will be the fourth in a series of four hard games where they, hopefully, will be playing for their 6th and 7th point out of a possible 8 points in that same stretch.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Caps Win vs. Lightning 3-2,Brian Pothier Scores In His Return To the Lineup

There was a lot for the Caps to be happy about in looking at tonight's win against the Lightning. That said, the Lightning didn't play good hockey and as Lightning coach John Torterella noted were it not for some spectacular saves by rookie goalie Karri Ramo, " It could have been 8-2." The game wasn't as close as the score indicated and the Caps dominated the majority of the game from a statistical perspective. In what was possibly an effort to force the Caps to let their first line "open things up", Torterella "stacked" the Lightning's first line with Prospal - Lecavalier - St. Louis. To some extent this worked, far from shutting the entire line down, Lecavalier tallied both of the Bolts goals. However, except for one shot/scoring chance by Prospal and a shorthanded break by St. Louis that caused Alex Ovechkin to hold the Lightning star and nullify a Capital's power play midway through the third period the Caps held all but Lecavalier at bay throughout the contest. Statistically the Caps out shot the Bolts in every period and ended with a 32-20 edge in shots; the Caps also played clean hockey throughout the night drawing only one penalty - the "good" two minute holding call on Ovechkin to keep St. Louis from getting shorthanded breakaway at 9:12 of the third period.

The stars of the game were the Caps third and fourth lines who not only kept the first two lines of Tampa Bay tied up much of the night but drew their own "blood" from the otherwise stingy Ramo. During his 13:54 of ice time, Capitals center Dave Steckel took 4 shots and tallied 1 goal and 2 assists (3 points) while also garnering a =/- rating of + 3 for the night; winning 55% of the 11 face offs (6/5) he took and getting the top star of the game for the night. Mike Green anchored the defense corps, logging 27:10 of ice time including 6:02 on the power play and ended the night even in the +/- category and an assist. Perhaps more of note, from midway through the third period Green seemed to take charge of the ice and ignite a spark to the Capitals prior to Matt Bradley tallying the game winner at 17:07. Green and his defensive partner Shoane Morrisonn led the Caps in ice time giving Tom Poti (TOI 17:25) some rest and allowing Brian Pothier to "ease" back in the lineup with 15:26 of ice time. Pothier, who was the number 1 star the last time the Caps and Lightning met, notched a pretty second period goal that tied the game 2-2 at 17:42 of the second period. While the Caps controlled the puck in the Bolts end and worked a line change, Pothier pinched in on the right side point to the top of the slot, caught a pretty setup pass from Steckel and Ovenchkin and drilled it top shelf, left side of the net over Ramo's blocker for then tying goal. All three of the Caps goals were fun to watch and well deserved. The first goal by Dave Steckel was scored through his own hard work and determination, punching in his own rebound from just outside the crease before Ramo could smother the puck. The game winner by Matt Bradley was a wild one that went to review to ensure it was in before the Lightning DMen "stumbled" in to the net and knocked the goal off the post. The lengthy review ensured the jubilant Caps crowd got to watch the clear goal on the "jumbotron" several times before the goal was called official; this only ensured the crowd was "boisterous" for the final 2:53 of the game.

With Brian Pothier's return both Steve Eminger and John Erskine were healthy scratches tonight, so Caps fans still don't know the extent of Eminger's "cooties". However, with Pothier's return all three Defense pairings played well and complimented each other. None of the six Capitals defensemen had a negative +/- for the game, and Pothier and Jeff Schultz were both +1.

While winning certainly is cause for some relief and the Caps clearly earned both points tonight there were a couple areas that continue to show weakness. The power play was O/4 tonight, though much of that was due to spectacular saves by Ramo, the Caps also had a couple of instances during the first three power plays where they went extended periods without a good shot. The final power play (as a result of a tripping penalty on Lecavalier in the third period) was actually the Caps worst stretch. During the minute before Ovie had to hold Lecavalier, Tampa Bay kept the Caps "off kilter". However, the Caps subsequently held off the Bolts for the 1:06 that the Bolts had the man advantage and then came alive and played fantastic hockey for the remainder of the game. If it weren't for Ramo it could have easily been a 6+goal night and everyone would be having free wings at Austin's grill. The other cause for concern centers on the defensive end of the ice, there were a couple of mistakes that led to or could have led to solid scoring chances by the Bolts. In most cases these stemmed from poor or overly long/uncrisp clearing passes. Fortunately Olie the Goalie responded in those cases and made the needed saves. However, while I haven't seen others account of Lecavalier's second goal (from a breakaway, wrist shot from the top of the left circle); you'd have to call it a relatively soft goal. Olie came out, challenged early, made the first move and got beat cleanly on a goal that you have to believe "he'd like back". Had the resurgent Caps truly completed their journey back to the team they know they can be; tonight's game would have been 6/7or even 8 - 1. Being a superstitious fan, this writer is fine with them "saving" a few goals for their tomorrow night's game against the Penguins and the upcoming Home-Home against the Senators.

The ice surface at the Verizon Center was better than it has been but it was still basically unacceptable. While not "wet" it was clearly slow and soft and there were at least four occasions that it adversely affected play and the flow of the game. During the second period, other than Karri Ramo's spectacular saves the Caps home ice was clearly Tampa bay's seventh man at times. Hopefully something will be done about this situation soon; but again winning sure makes a lot of things matter less.

32 points down/60 to go. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve Eminger Has Cooties!!?!!??

This just in from the Caps' Preview for tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning:

"Possible Line Combos and Defensive Pairings
Tampa Bay Forwards
20-Prospal, 4-Lecavalier, 16-Ward
17-Hlavac, 19-Richards, 26-St. Louis
74-Tarnasky, 24-Karlsson, 21-Darche
29-MacDonald, 77-Gratton, 36-Roy

Tampa Bay Defensemen
54-Ranger, 71-Kuba
39-Lundin, 55-O’Brien
3-Janik, 37-Lukowich

Goaltenders: 31-Ramo, 40-Holmqvist

Washington Forwards
8-Ovechkin, 92-Nylander, 25-Kozlov
43-Fleischmann, 92-Nylander, 28-Semin
18-Pettinger, 21-Laich, 10-Bradley
87-Brashear, 39-Steckel, 53-Laing

Washington Defensemen
3-Poti, 23-Jurcina
26-Morrisonn, 52-Green
4-Erskine, 55-Schultz

Goaltenders: 1-Johnson, 37-Kolzig"

The obvious typo on the line 2 center (should be Backstrom, right?) aside, why Steve Eminger isn't getting some ice time instead of either John Erskine or Jeff Schultz, after their less than stellar performances up on Long Island this week, has got to have many Caps fans, in addition to this writer, wondering what is wrong with the 2002 First Round Draft pick. These thoughts are not an indictment on the seasons that either Erskine or Schultz are having but after Coach Bruce Bodreau had #2 Defenseman Brian Pothier sit a game for less than stellar efforts, the message seemed to be the Caps have eight (seven now with Pothier injured) NHL caliber defenseman and all would get some ice time. Since the Caps named Bodreau Interim Head Coach, they made him permanent today dropping the Interim label in an earlier press release this morning, that mantra has held true for all of the Caps Defenseman, EXCEPT Steve Eminger. Since Eminger's lack of playing time this year pre-dates Boudreau - he wasn't logging a lot of ice time under Coach Glen Hanlon, the conclusion must be that something not apparent to casual observers, has got to be going on.

Eminger is generally believed to be a solid top six defender and the offensive acumen to quarterback the powerplay, that would seem to make him a better fit to fill in for the injured Pothier. Has Jeff Schultz's improved offensive play been what has side-tracked this opportunity for Eminger to get some ice time? Has he been practicing with some sort of unannounced injury that has slowed him? Is he actively on the trading block - if so why? Steve Eminger played 68 games last year for the Caps and had a solid, respectable season. His numbers and play put him entering training camp in solid position with the other Caps defenders who returned from last season, in fact he could have entered camp ranked third or fourth among the Caps Blue Liners. What has happened so that now he is solidly the number seven (7) and the "odd man out" of the lineup? The play of the Caps third pairing of Schultz and Erskine cannot, by any measure, be judged as cause to keep him out of the lineup - in fact the lack of deft mobility by the pairing gave the Islanders several scoring chances and they converted one of those chances to a goal in a game that went to overtime. When Boudreau first took the reigns, the way he talked, fans would have expected to see those issues result in an adjustment to the line up so at least one of the pair was "held accountable" for the performance that resulted in those chances and that goal. Since, at least according to today's preview, it looks like Steve Eminger will again be a healthy scratch, the only reasonable explanation is there is something casual observers cannot see driving this decision.

The Lightning will have two awesome offensive lines on the ice tonight and two other solid lines that are clear offensive threats. All four lines will be well rested and ready to play. The Caps will need to hustle, dig, and be the team they can be, the team that took the league leading Red Wings to task and played with them toe to toe for an entire game and then some, in order to be sure to shake off their three game losing streak and make up two more points against their Southeast Division brethren. A mobile, agile defense that helps the offensive threats and doesn't get caught out of position is what the Caps will need to make that effort an reality. Last game Milan Jurcina showed "he gets it" making sure he got back into position and broke up plays he inadvertently let develop; this game, if the defensive parings are put out as shown in the Caps preview, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine need to do the same. If they don't then unless he's not healthy, it will be time for the Caps to see if Eminger can step in for one of the three defensemen other than Tom Poti, Mike Green, or Shoane Morrisonn (all of whom are having very solid seasons) and "make it happen" on the road tomorrow in Pittsburgh and later in the week in Ottawa. If the Caps management won't make that happen, then indeed they should trade Eminger for someboday they will play that might help them in their quest to climb out of the Conference "basement".

On the offensive side of the ice, all Caps fans will obviously be rooting for Alex Ovechkin and his mates to have a great night against Lightning's anticipated starter Finnish Rookie Karri Ramo. The Bolts have pulled started Johan Holmqvist three times in his last four starts in favor of Ramo and many anticipate tonight's game at the Verizon Center being Ramo's first NHL start. The international irony of a Finnish rookie goalie having his first NHL start in Washington, DC against a team whose offensive starts are primarily Russian and Swedish shouldn't be lost on Caps' faithful. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See you at the VC tonight and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas - Looking Forward To Tommarrow Night's Game

Merry Christmas, it's been a wonderful day here at home. I got several great gifts from my wife and son; they went all out and got me some fun gadgets for my bar that I got a real kick out of - a neat wine chiller from Brookstone and a bar caddy that dispenses pre-measured shots from 4 different bottles and looks pretty spiffy. I always get a real kick out of getting folks things they didn't ask for, but really like and wouldn't buy for themselves; this year I was on the receiving end of two of those, one from each of my favorite people in the world. Even better, tomorrow night I'll go to my first Caps Home game of December and my son is coming with me. The main reason I ever got Caps season tickets is/was to spend some time with my son, doing something we enjoy together; so when we can go to the games together it's especially great to me. Now that he is focused on finishing his senior year of high school in style, and busy doing all those things that teenagers do and that take time, it's rare we get to a weeknight game together, so watching the Caps vs. the Lightning this week will be a real treat.

What about this budding match up? Well, with a few puck bounces the Caps way, it's not hard to envision them finishing the night one (1) point behind the Lightning. The real questions leading up to the night center on the defensive pairings, with Brian Pothier still out and the issues with the Schultz/Erskine pairing evidenced last game, don't be surprised to see Steve Eminger on the blue line for the Caps. Eminger's mobility opens up a lot of possibilities for Coach Bruce Boudreau to consider; but, don't expect things to get too fancy until number 44 comes out and proves himself. It appears most fans will be rooting for him to do just that. One of the more enjoyable things for Caps fans to watch this season has been Mike Green's maturation and what looks like it will be a breakout season for the young defenseman. Jeff Schultz has had his ups and downs so far but also looks like he'll be a steady top four defenseman for the Caps, as well. With the continued tough road ahead to any chance of a post season appearance by their team, the Caps faithful are taking solace in the improving performance of these "home grown" young defensemen. A solid performance b y Eminger would give them another reason to celebrate the improving defensive side of the team.

Two of these pleasant "surprises" the last two games, have been Shoanne Morrisonn and Milan Jurcina. Against the Islanders, Jurcina looked like he was going to be caught out of position and burned twice, however on both occasions he got back and broke up the developing plays himself, finishing the game with a +/- rating of +1 after logging a respectable 16:10 of ice time. Morrisonn is clearly maturing into a stalwart, "defensive" D-Man and is being counted on for more ice time and to anchor the Capitals Defense in shorthanded situations. Statistically this handicaps him with regards to +/- ratings, yet Morrisonn has regularly had very good games like he did against the Isles where he logged 23:15 of ice time including 2:21 while the Caps were shorthanded. He ended the Isles game -1, he wasn't on the ice during any of the Caps goals and was out when Bill Guerin scored a relatively soft goal at 17:54 of the third period, while Morrisonn's defensive partner Mike Green was down on the ice after getting a cut to the head that could otherwise have resulted in a play stoppage had the referees seen the injury. Overall, for the year Morrisonn is -3, despite logging considerable ice time and a lot of penalty killing minutes. He has clearly shown he deserved the two year contract extension the Caps gave him this past off season when they re-signed him as a restricted free agent (RFA).

Another positive since the coaching change, has been Tom Poti's blue line play; Washington fans are no longer questioning managements foray into the free agent pool that landed Poti in DC this past off season. Despite the losing effort before the Christmas break, Poti led the team in ice team with 26:10 and had a +/- rating of +2 for the game. He leads the team in ice time and has done so in 24 of 30 outings this season; yet to score a goal this season, Poti is fifth on the team with 11 assists and overall is -3 +/- rating.

All in all tomorrow's contest should be a great home game for the Caps. The Lightning have the worst road record in the league this season and both teams come in to the game off losses. Everyone will be rested and the game should draw a fair sized crowd, given the holiday timing. If the Caps blank Lecavalier and St. Louis; AO gets a hat trick +1 and the Blue Jackets blank Kovalchuk, Caps fans might be on the road to getting what they want for Christmas. The team's star will be tied for the goal scoring lead, the team will be two points closer to pulling out of the cellar of the Southeast division, and the Caps will have completely dominated their division rival Lightning sending a resounding message to the league they are not the team they were before their coaching change. Merry Christmas & LETS GO CAPS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Chistmas Eve - Good Wishes to All! LETS GO CAPS!!

It's the day before Christmas and all through the house here in Bristow not a creature is stirring except for the three of us, my father-in-law and our three Tibetan Terriers. As I contemplate the past years blessings and accomplishments I reflect on a very hectic year of lots of ups and downs. Of course even with a few disappointments, its been a good year when you can afford luxuries like Caps Season Tickets - we live a pretty blessed life and have a lot to be thankful for seemingly every holiday season.

Looking ahead to Thursday's Caps vs. Lightning game here's where things stand: the Caps enter the game with 30 points, 92 GF and 110 GA; the Lightning aren't far ahead with 33 points, 106 GF and 118 GA. The Lightning are coming off a 4-1 home loss to Carolina and are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. The Caps are coming off a heartbreaking 3-2 OT loss on Long Island with the Islanders and are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. For the Caps to win, they have to stop the Bolts' 4 leading scorers, particularly the dynamic duo of Lecavalier and St. Louis. Center Vincent Lecavalier has a league leading 53 points (23 goals and 30 assists). His high flying, fast skating linemate, Right Wing Martin St. Louis has an impressive 41 points (13 goals and 28 assists). Center Vaclav Prospal has 15 goals and 18 assists; while Center Brad Richards also has 33 points with 11 goals and 22 assists.

Of the Caps only superstar Alex Ovechkin has more than 10 goals with a league third twenty five (25). In total AO has 41 points - 25 goals and 16 assists. For once, this might not be a bad thing, since on the Tampa Bay side of the ice over 58% of their goals have been scored by 4 players - conventional wisdom would say shut those four players down and the game is yours, while since the coaching change the Caps have possessed a very balanced offense. This would seem to be especially true when almost 74% of the Caps' offensive production is spread fairly evenly around the team. Interestingly, the Caps have one of the worst home records in the league thus far this season; while the Lightning have the worst road record. So far the season series between the two rivals is tied at 2-2. The Caps won their last meeting with the Bolts, on December 15th, 3-2 in regulation at Saint Pete Times Forum. In that game, the Lightning were able to hold Ovechkin scoreless, while Lecavalier scored a goal and an assist. One of the keys to the Caps last victory over the Lightning: Martin St. Louis was, like AO, blanked. Ironically, the star of the last meeting was injured Capitals defenseman, Brian Pothier and goalie Brent Johnson stopped 23 of 25 shots for the win. The main other key to the Caps two prior regular season wins against the Lightning, this year, seem to be coming out strong and getting at least as many good shots on goal as they gave up. In that regard, after a three day Christmas break, both teams should be fresh and rested.

The Caps have four more games to the midpoint of the season and even if they win all four they will be one point off last years record. The difference will be if they do that they will be coming off a December where they would have gone 8-5 and will be resurgent and confident. Further if things keep up the way they are going in the Eastern Conference this year it may only take 88 or fewer points to make the playoffs, but you can't count on that happening. Right now the Caps have 44 games left to make up the eight (8) points they are out of the final two playoff points in the Conference. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!! and Merry Christmas.

Ted's Take - Interesting Edits - Understandable but Disappointing

Over the past few month's I've been participating in the "blogsphere" I've noticed a few things about blogs by "new media experts" such as "Ted's Take" by Ted Leonsis and Mark Cuban's blogs. Not surprisingly, while these blogs serve to make their authors much more accessible then prior forms of communications, new media savvy execs like Leonsis and Cuban's blogs are quite self serving and pretty heavily edited when it comes to responsive comments. Regardless if they are on topic or not.

I do not take issue with the practices of these bloggers - their blogs are indeed their creations in cyberspace and it is their right to exercise some control on their web presence. Indeed over the weekend, I saw an interview with Presidential Candidate Ron Paul where he was taken to task by Internet "supporters" who hijack and otherwise twist and subvert some of his populist/libertarian views. So it's only smart that folks with high web profiles want to exercise this type of control. What I'm doing here in this article is pointing out that the practice, subtle though it is, does occur.

I offer the following two examples with regard to "Ted's Take" as evidence of it.

Back in late November I posted a comment back to Mr. Leonsis that in addition to his "Revolution Money" card and approach to the market and alternative technology and start-up "Pay By Touch" did away with the card and "token" that cash or other payment forms use by linking someone to their funds via biometrics. I pointed out that this alternative technology was potentially the next step beyond his Revolution Money venture. Not surprisingly, that post and the link to a start up one of my friends is involved with out the San Francisco Bay area never was published on his widely read Ted's Take blog; after all if it were to catch on why would anyone need Mr. Leonsis' "Revolution Money"?

In response to Mr. Leonsis' recent "Beauty is In the Eye of the Beholder" post on his Washington Capitals - I posted a response thanking him for all he and the team does for the community. I also offered five suggestions on how the Caps might enlist more cooperation of us current Caps Season Ticket Holders (STH) in trying to get a couple thousand more STHs signed up. Those suggestions were: 1) When he holds a fire sale to fill the seats next to our $75 and $58 seats for $35 to throw us a bone of some sort. 2) a) Re-sign Ovie now so we know he has a commitment to the team, b) Get a clear successor to Olie on board now, and c) Fire McPhee so we don't have a guy who can't figure out how to sign a guy like Bryzlaglov when he's available in the front office. I believe so far Boudreau is a keeper but the issues with McPhee go deeper than the coaching staff. 3) Influence the Verizon Center to fix the Ice Surface - it hurts the Caps as much or more than their opponents. 4) Improve the food at VC - it would help folks use STH for business purposes. and 5) Host two nights - weeknight games in February & March where STHs could bring an equal number of folks to the game provided they attended a reception before the game with Caps sales staff and heard the benefits of season ticket ownership. (A sales approach similar to what time shares do to sell their wares.)

The reasons for not posting the first comment are probably fairly obvious. The reasons for the second are probably more subtle - from perhaps these ideas have been discussed and discarded for sound business reasons - so why start/encourage further discussion on them if they can't/won't be implemented - to - maybe it was just too long a comment.

In any case I don't have an issue with this censorship. I haven't had reason to implement such censorship here on "Mark's Musings", but if I had the readership and number of comments that Mr. Leonsis has I'm sure I'd need to do similarly. If for example, someone posted something in response to my highlighting the offerings of ICx Technologies, that was erroneous or inflammatory, I'd be tempted to edit it as well and would do so if I felt such action was warranted. I just figured I'd use cyberspace and my own blog to bring these ideas up as well. Merry Christmas & LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Caps lose to Isles 3-2 in OT; Probably Need to Play 0.674 Rest of Way to Make Playoffs

Tonight's game between the Caps and the Islanders ended up being a heart breaker for Caps fans like me. Olie Kolzig made a lot of key saves to keep the Caps in it and Alex Ovechkin's goal with the empty net (6 on 5) to tie it with under a minute left was cause for hope. Unfortunately, there were a lot of low points, the Caps were out shot 31-16 through three periods and OT and the final score didn't go their way. For their part, the Islanders played intensely all night earning the two points, and had far too many chances to put the Caps away long before Richard Park notched the OT winner.

Olie Kolzig kept the Caps in it however, he didn't have that "human wall night" the Caps needed in order to get two points while only putting 16 shots on net. In fact, on the Isles first goal and the game winner Kolzig couldn't be happy and probably would, as they say, like both those goals back. Speaking of the OT game winner by Park, it was a relatively soft goal and at the time their was an injured Mike Green down on the ice with blood coming from his ear. From a "slightly" biased Caps fan's perspective it would seem play should have been whistled dead, but that apparently is not the case. The Caps are now 4-4-2 so far in the month of December. With three more games against Eastern Conference opponents left before the New Year, the Caps really need 4 or 5 of the 6 available points if they are to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. That's a tough pill to swallow in December when the season's end is 3+ months away. Even though the Caps are clearly resurgent since the coaching change and are a far better team than their overall record of 13-19-4 would suggest.

On the plus side tonight - the Caps continue to have confidence and never give up. Olie had a solid night and looked like a number one goalie should. Alex Semin seems like he's back in the swing of things and the second line looked pretty solid, though I didn't think last night was Nicklas Backstrom's best outing. Despite being out shot by an almost 2-1 margin the Caps stayed in the game quite well. The Defense pairings of Morrisonn-Green and Poti-Jurcina were very solid. Milan Jurcina had a very solid game and made sure he didn't get burned regardless who he was on the ice with, ending the night +1 while Tom Poti ended the evening +2. Morrisonn - Green didn't fare quite so well ending the evening -1 however both had over 23 minutes of ice time. Tom Poti and Quintin Laing's penalty killing continues to look solid both players along with Dave Srteckel and Shoanne Morrisonn were on the ice for over 2:00 of the Islanders three power plays, and the Caps penalty killing was 100%.

On the minus side there were also many items to be disappointed about. First the Caps got out shot 2-1 and their forechecking didn't look as good as it has since the coaching change. This is as much a compliment of the Islanders play if not more so then an indictment of the Caps forechecking. As I noted the Semin-Backstom combination still clearly needs time to mature and Ovie hasn't scored an "even strength goal" in the last two games (last night's goal occurred with 6-5, despite being statistically counted as an even strength goal. On the defensive pairing negatives, I hate being right with my negative vibes - it was doubly bad for the Caps when my negative waves AND dmg's are both correct on the same play, as was the case with the Islanders first goal. The Defensive pairing on the ice was Schultz - Erskine; Erskine didn't have a chance and Schultz was pinching before Miroslav Satan broke out and Schultz couldn't get back. Just like I feared with this pairing the result was not good for the Caps. Of course Satan then when lateral across the front of the net on a 1-0 breakaway and Olie's cross movement was slow so he made the first move and got beat. It was a pretty goal that capitalized (no pun intended) on two Caps weaknesses - Olie's lateral mobility and Erskine's skating. As a counter to the penalty killing which held the Islanders to 0-3; the Caps powerplay was also 0-3 and languishes in mediocrity with regard to results, despite the presence of so many solid young offensive forces. Another tough pill to swallow is the Caps overall offensive production - only one Cap, Alex Ovechkin, has more than 10 goals as the season's midpoint nears.

Alex Semin's goal that tied the game was bittersweet, but at the end of two period the Caps had been out shot 20-8 by the Islanders, and the boys in blue certainly seemed be dominant. Overall with a 0.903 save percentage for the game and a 0.950 during the first two periods with lots of action, it's hard to put the game or blame on Olie. The vaunted Caps offense needs to get rev'ed up. It sure seemed the Caps were trying too many long passes and at times were man-handled by the Islanders. During the second period, two other occasions where the Islanders just rode the opposing Caps off the puck. One of those occasions occurred when Jeff Schultz was holding the puck too long. It seemed the reason for this mistake was again grounded in the pairing with Erskine, who was on the ice at the time - it seemed clear Schultz was looking for a winger to come back and get the puck from him so he wouldn't need to pass it to Erskine. Erskine and his Old Time Hockey style are fun to watch, and at times energize the rest of the team, but he almost let his temper get the best of him and gave up a man advantage. That said the operative word in the prior sentence is almost - he didn't draw a penalty and the Caps got the man advantage when Park was called for boarding. Unfortunately the Caps power play did not convert.

The best thing the Caps could have done was come out for the third period and act like they had an all out 20 minute hockey game to play; since essentially that was the case. The third period certainly seemed different then the first two - the tempo of the game and the Caps control of the puck seemed different. Each team had 7 shots and scored one goal so it was a much more even period statistically then the first two. However the truth be told, depite seeming to control the play frm 8:00 into the period through 15:00 or 16:00 into the period, the Caps let the Isles score a go ahead goal at 17:54 and had to pull Olie so Ovechkin could score a tying goal at 19:05 to force overtime. With a +/- of -1 in 12:58 of ice time for John Erskine and a -2 in 20:12 of ice time for Jeff Schultz last night; it would seem that Steve Eminger would have a fair chance of playing some during the last three games in December.

The amazing thing to most observers is that with only 30 points and the midpoint of the season quickly approaching the Caps still don't have to play over 0.700 hockey to make the playoffs. The reason is that when you extrapolate the current performance of the Eastern Conference teams only 6 teams are clearly on track to gain 92 or more points. The final two spots are clearly still up for the taking by any of the remaining 9 teams in the division. LETS GO CAPS !!!! Oh and Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Caps vs Islanders Tonight!

The resurgent Caps come off a frustrating 5-2 loss to the Canadiens and travel to Nassau County's Veteran's Coliseum to take on the Islanders tonight. The Islanders are 3-6-0-1 so far during December but have played 0.500 Hockey their last six games and are coming off a 4-2 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh last night. The Islanders did a good job last night holding Pittsburgh's stars in check by all accounts. Rookie Blake Comeau has replaced Chris Simons' "grittiness" and tallied a goal and assist while the Islanders have juggled their lines to adjust for his 30 game suspension and sessions on anger management - shades of Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson come to mind. The Caps still sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference despite being 5-4-1 in their last ten and capturing 3 of 4 points on their last road trip (including a hard earned point at Joe Louis Arena). Comparatively the Caps are 3-2-0-1 in their last six (call it 0.550 hockey) and 5-3-0-1 so far in the month of December; they should give the Islanders a good run for their money and (hopefully) capture two points from Charles Wang's Islanders. For those of you who really follow the NHL their should be a really good friendly rivalry between the Caps and Islanders given the fact that like the Capitals the Islanders ownership comes from the High Technology sector. The Caps have the worst Home Ice Surface in the league and in my opinion the Islanders probably have the worst Home Arena overall in the league (IMHO).

Tonight's game will be the first time since the Capitals coaching change that the two Eastern Conference rivals play each other. The last time they met was October 18th in Washington and the Islanders won that contest 5-2; prior to that meeting the Caps beat the Islanders in Uniondale 2-1; so this seasons series between the two is tied at 1-1. Gabby's line and pairings for the game are likely to be:

8-Ovechkin, 92-Nylander, 25-Kozlov
43-Fleischmann, 19-Backstrom, 28-Semin
18-Pettinger, 21-Laich, 10-Bradley
87-Brashear, 39-Steckel, 53-Laing

3-Poti, 23-Jurcina
26-Morrisonn, 52-Green
4-Erskine, 55-Schultz.

No final word on who will start in goal - Olie Kolzig has yielded 3 or more goals in 8 of his last 10 outings but has a much better career record against the Islanders than Brent Johnson. From my perspective the Caps have two fairly solid net minders though some folks clearly disagree (see dmg's postings if you care to read well thought and considered criticisms of Olie the Goalie - I love the guy and think he is such a class act that I am rarely objective. In fact I like both the Caps net minders and think they are solid ambassadors of the game and their organizations on and off the ice. When Olie gets hot and the Caps go 8-2 in their next 10 I'm confident dmg will find other things to write about).

Looking at the likely match ups and last nights game between the Pens and the Isles, for the Caps to win, it's vital the Caps continue to spread the scoring around so the Islanders can't just shut down the first line, like they did last night in Pittsburgh, and win. I continue to feel the way to do that is to let Kozlov center an Ovechkin led first line with either Pettinger or Bradley on the opposite wing; have Nylander center line two with a resurgent Semin for firepower and have Backstrom on the third line between either Brashear and Bradley or Laing. Nicklas has clearly arrived and is a power on his own line between two big guys or with Ovie. I know I'm less qualified to make any of these statement s then the folsk who are making the decisions but I continue to feel that 5 on 5 Ovie and Nylander's styles are not very complimentary. On the defensive pairings and taking into account Pothier's injury selection of the sixth defenseman versus the Islanders is a hard call. As noted elsewhere, John Erskine has some pretty good stats versus the Islanders but it's also hard not to be rooting for Steve Emminger. One particular note is looking at the pairings, Coach Boudreau, clearly now has solid confidence in Jeff Schultz. I continue to root for number 55 but am not sure that paring him with Erskine is the thing to do versus the Islanders. The Islanders lines (all four seemingly with Comeau in for Simon) possess a fair amount of mobility and speed - Erskine is an old school stay at home, tough defenseman but as has regularly been noted by others fleet of foot he is not. Should Jeff Schultz find himself caught out of position or up ice, he will need to really hustle and have a little luck to get back to where he should be or else the Caps will be burned. Hopefully, Coach Boudreau is right and Jeff Schultz is now mature enough to adjust his tempo of play back to be more conservative in account of his new pairing.

LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Okay so I'll Pile on - I Really Like Bruce Boudreau

Yeah, I caught the tail end of tonight's loss to the Canadiens after coming back from New Jersey on business (one of the easiest drives up and back in a while, thank you for asking). I feel a little like dmg but the Caps played hard and dominated the game in most respects except the most important statistical one - the score. I remain optimistic as I'm sure the new coach will find a lot of things the team can fix and they will continue to respond. I'll finally get to see my second game of December at the VC on the day after Christmas and by then it's my hope the Caps will have flogged the Islanders (without Chris Simon's services for 30 games) at Veterans Coliseum. More later.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Boudeau's Washington Capitals 7-4-0-1

Well the Caps are 7-4-0-1 since Bruce Boudreau took the helm as interim coach. Personally, I think the last two games are cause for hope. Another 10 games, or so, like this and Bruce Boudreau's "Interim" label may no longer be warranted or apply. This weekend the Caps lost a "good game" on Friday night, at home versus the Sabres, who certainly seem to have their number so far this year. Since the Sabres are playing pretty good hockey having gone 6-4 in their last ten, the Caps could have used that game as cause to relapse to the funk they were in prior to Thanksgiving. Instead, last night, the Washington skaters came out resilient and focused against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are very tough at home with a home record of 11-4-2 so far this season.

The Caps played a hard fought game and got offense from their third and fourth lines as well as the defense corps to relieve some pressure on their stars and came away with a 3-2 victory at the end of regulation. To be sure the game was not without it's highs and lows but the statistics clearly show the Caps out shot and in several categories outplayed the Lightning. Those who watched the game saw the Caps do a superb job of bottling up the Lightning's formidable set of offensive weapons. In short, the Caps shrugged off the loss to the Sabres and went about the business of making sure they got two points from their division rival Lightning. For the month of December to date, the Caps are 5-2. Additionally, the last five games of November, Bruce Boudreau's first at the Caps helm, resulted in a 2-2-0-1. Are the Caps picking up steam? It's too early to tell but Caps fans have to really like what they are seeing so far. The team's scoring is coming from more than just Alexander Ovechkin. Since the coaching change, in addition to Ovechkin, 14 other Caps have tallied goals during the Caps' 12 games. Hershey Bears call-up Joe Motzko and Defenseman Mike Green both have games where they scored two goals. Young Defenseman Jeff Schultz had a three game scoring streak, and goals have also been tallied by Bears callup and penalty killer Quintin Laing as well as goals in two games including a very pretty game winner last night by Defenseman Brian Pothier. This diverse productivity has clearly made the Caps a much harder team to play; and it has helped their superstar slowly climb up to number two on the league's goal scorer list. Over the past 12 games, the Caps bumper crop of 2004 first round draft picks - Ovechkin, Green, Schultz - have shown they have all arrived. Even Shultz whose performance over the past two seasons has at times been erratic, seems to have steadied his performance and is as consistent as his +/- stat of +5 in 38 games with the Caps last season would indicate he should be. The Caps are showing the talent a team with 10 first round draft picks ought to be able to bring to bear on their opponents. In addition to the tireless work ethic instilled in them by their former coach, they appear to have now added the no excuses philosophy of their current bench leader. The combination seems to be working and the product on the ice is more fun to watch then ever.

Most importantly the Caps have now captured 15 of 24 possible points and are 4-1-0-1 in six games against Southeast Division opponents. In games against their division rivals the Caps have given 3 points and taken 9 - that's plus 6 on the field and continues to allow Caps fans hope for a playoff spot despite the fact their team remains tied for last in the league with 26 points. Welcome to the era of post lockout, salary cap imposed parity. The cause for hope is based on the fact that of the Caps remaining fifty games, they will face Southeast Division opponents sixteen times - at the current point capture ratio that will give them 24 of the additional 66 points, conventional wisdom says, they need to gain a playoff berth. That means they need to play .615 hockey in the other 34 games which is on or close to the pace they've been having so far under Boudreau. A tough road ahead - sure; do they need to play every game with "playoff intensity" - sure. But it is possible, and they sure seem more resilient and confident under Coach Boudreau then they did earlier this season when they stumbled. Of course step one will be getting out of the NHL's cellar. A great place to start would be marching into Joe Louis arena and figuring a way to get at least one point from the league leading Red Wings who are 7-1-2 in their last 10 and 13-2-1 at home so far this season. The Red Wings haven't lost a game outright in regulation since their 3-2 loss to the Predators at Nashville on November 22nd; and haven't lost at Joe Louis since a 5-3 loss to the Blackhawks on November 17th. A victory by the Caps would send a real signal to the rest of the league, they intend to return to the powerhouse they started the season's first three games like, and the rebuild is indeed over in Washington.

Never give up, never say die. Take no prisioners - no excuses. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Caps Win 3-2

Well the Caps beat the Lightning 3-2 in Tampa in a hard fought game.

It was a great game but I think the penalty on Kuba for his two hander on Ovechkin wasn't enough, he should have gotten a game misconduct as well.

Pothier's PP goal was really pretty and Quintin Laing continues to play his guts out and earn everyone's respect and admiration. Tonight he was plus 1 and blocked at least 2 shots. I didn't think the penalties on either Ovechkin or Semin were good calls but the Caps got away with a big trip on St. Louis so other than the fact that my paternal instincts say Kuba should have gotten more than he did for his "high stick" on Ovie it was a pretty evenly called game. Another fun one to watch, hard work by the Caps held both Lecavalier and St. Louis at bay and the Caps are playing well. More later but it was a two point night.

What a week - for me and the Caps

Well last evening I walked into the house after getting off a plane from Albuquerque tired and still fighting a bad cold I had all week on the road. So rather then subjecting the other fans in section 103 to the same coughing I had been doing since arriving in San Diego on Monday, I watched the Caps - Sabres from the love seat in our rec room here in Bristow. Yes, the end result was disappointing as was the recap shown this morning on ESPN Sportscenter. The highlights were Ovie's 23rd goal and the Sabre's game winner in the third. Both were poignant, for Caps fan in opposing perspectives, of course.

Rather then go through the game details as others already have, or write a vehement counter-point to some folks criticism of Olie the Goalie's performance last night (I really don't think that 3 of the 4 goals that occurred during the time Olie was in the net were all his fault like dmg seems to think and I definitely don't feel he's playing sub par for a starter - in fact there was just an ESPN highlight of a great save by Olie last night.) I'd like to highlight and amplify by others that it's definitely not the time to get down on the Caps, since the coaching change they are a different team look at the stats as some others have. Here's where the Caps stand since the coaching change: 6-4-0-1 (3-1-0-1 against SE Division Opponents including 1-1 vs. the division leading Hurricanes). All eleven games since the coaching change have been against Eastern Conference opponents.How big a turnaround is this compared to the first 21 games - HUGE! If the first 21 games had been played this way we'd be looking at a team that had a clear chance at breaking 100 points and a playoff spot. Since the coaching change, Bruce Bodreau's team has been able to "stay on the bubble" for a spot in the playoffs, and the best part is we no longer blame losses on players who are out due to injury (a fact of life in the NHL that has to be accepted and dealt with - it's a physical game and there are 82 of them in the regular season.)

Statistically, they have drastically improved in almost every category. The one category that has been an issue the past two games is turnovers, 25 in each of the last two games. Also in last night's loss penalties were an issue - the three!! too many men on the ice penalties, put the Caps total penalties at well over their average since the coaching change. Another notable low item, last night was the first time since the coaching change that an opponent scored 5 goals - even though one of them was an empty netter. I will say one thing about the game versus the Sabres before going through the stats discussion. Last night once again, the horrible? controversial? whatever, basically bad ice again played a role in the result of the game. It contributed to two goals and at least one "tripping" penalty that wouldn't have happened on good ice that I could see on TV. It's also been an issue in a couple of potential injuries since the Caps started playing a more wide open game in Boudreau's system. Problems with Verizon Center's ice surface need to be addressed sooner than later.

The team the Caps lost to last night are the only Eastern Conference team the Caps can't seem to figure out. This year the Caps are 0-3 versus the Sabres, this is perplexing, the Devils are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games - their only loss - the Caps. The Caps are 1-2 versus the Lightning and go to Tampa tonight where the Lightning are 11-4-2 so far this year. Tampa Bay is 4-5-1 in their last 10; if the Caps win they will be 7-4-0-1 since the the day after Thanksgiving. A win would mean they have captured 62.5% of the available points in a busy stretch of their schedule. Extrapolating that through the rest of the season would put them at 88 points for the season. With 88 points, the Caps will have to also pick up a couple of "bounces" and find a way to win 2-4 additional games. Impossible? Probably not, if they keep playing like they did during their three game "winning streak". If they keep giving up 25 turnovers a game though, it will certainly be a real hard road ahead. They will also likely need a couple of miracle games from their stars to get those three or four extra wins, a game where Olie the Goalie is a human wall. A game where the Great Eight gets a hat trick +; a game where Backstrom, Semin, Nylander or Kozlov looks like they are on fire. A game where Mike Green scores two and Shoane Morrisonn flattens anything that comes into the Caps zone so the inevitable young player mistake doesn't matter. Any of those things could result in the Caps having the likely minimum number of points for a playoff spot, IF they keep playing in the rest of the games like they now know they can. What better way to start then making the Lightning 11-5-2 at home when the third period buzzer goes off tonight? LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A good weekend winds down...

Well it was a good weekend here in Bristow. We held our annual Christmas party/open house last night; the Caps won last night; I gave my tickets to a co-worker whose last day at ICx Technologies was Friday. Scott Fortune - one of our administrative assistants, is leaving to follow his dream of acting on Broadway. Scott has gotten the understudy role for the part of Sebastian the Crab (understudy to Tituss Burgess) in The Little Mermaid on Broadway. He'd never been to a pro hockey game and wanted to go. He's a great guy, embarking on a neat journey in life and boy did he get a good first introduction to the NHL last night. Break A Leg Scott.

I watched the replay of the game on Comcast Sports Net this afternoon - that was a lot of fun. Congratulations Matt Pettinger, the drought is over. Nicklas Backstrom got his second 3 point game. The great 8 - Alex Ovechkin scored another goal; Ovie please, please make sure Kovalchuk doesn't win the scoring championship or even score the most goals this season. I could go on it surely was a great game. I still haven't seen Friday's game against the Devils; I couldn't find it on the dials, am I missing something? Either way, I thought Coach Bruce Boudreau's message after the game was right on. "We played a good game, we lost, that's neither good enough or acceptable, we are professionals and we expect to win every time we play". Also, I'm not down on Brian Pothier, like some people are, but if he screwed up as much as others have reported, sitting out a game is the right thing to do. Now that Mike Green scored two goals last night, I'm sure their will be folks screaming his praises. I like Green, a lot and have been up on him all season, but his +/- numbers are still problematic. His +/- stat is even an issue in light of his production; realize he has 7 goals and is - 4, so the other teams have scored 11 when he's been on the ice. He also took a not so smart penalty last night, and does that far too often. All that said, I expect if he keeps progressing and growing, he'll be a top 4 D-man for any team in the league at season's end. Also, he's on the path to being able to log Poti-like minutes as a top 2 D-man, shortly thereafter (another season or two). Go Mike Go; the Caps need a more stable blue line. As the season progresses and things get sorted out with Pothier, I expect we'll see a sextet of great defense led by Tom Poti; which consists of Poti, Pothier, Green, Morrisonn, and two of the following three: Steve Eminger, Jeff Schultz, and Milan Jurcina. If Jurcina has a couple more games like last night he will surely be one of the two. I love John Erskine's attitude and old time hockey style but just can't see him keeping up with a Caps game that I envision will get faster and faster paced over the rest of this season. That said I always root for the underdog, so don't be surprised if I get myself a number 4 jersey to watch games in soon.

Is the season still salvageable? Yes but it's a long hard road and 0.500 hockey won't be good enough. When do the Caps need to start down the road to the playoff? Monday evening - making sure the Devils don't have the opportunity to start another winning streak after losing 1-0 in overtime to the Rangers today, would be about the right time to make sure they are able to play 0.700 or better hockey in December.

As I've mentioned before I'll be in San Diego tomorrow evening, but my seats will be well occupied by our Director of Corporate Affairs Jessica and one of her friends. Jessica is from the Southern Tier of NY - Binghamton - has been a fan of the Binghamton Senators for a long time and has been a Caps fan since coming to the DC area. If that's not making sure the seats get good use, I don't know what is. I hope she and her friends get some free wings from Austin's Grill too. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What's going on elsewhere in the NHL's Eastern Conference?

While Caps fans are waiting through this six day period that ends tomorrow night and the Caps are busy instantiating Coach Bruce Bodreau's system what's going on elsewhere in the league and in particular the Eastern Conference? The good news when you look at the standings is that five days ago when the Caps started this lull in their schedule they were 7 points behind the NY Islanders for the final playoff spot in the division and as of this morning they are only 8 points back. The tough news is that my analysis of what has to happen with regard to the remainder of the Caps schedule hasn't changed - it's a long road to go even though it hasn't gotten much longer. Since my schedule analysis post on Saturday 12/1 the Islanders have lost twice outright (Atlanta 4-0; Boston 3-1) and once in a shootout (Atlanta 4-3 SO). So if the Islanders had won everything they would be 10 points ahead of the Caps and in a tie with three other teams in the Eastern Conference for third - the Caps would be 9 points out of a playoff spot (the Bruins). But instead here's what the Eastern Conference looks like now:

1) Ottawa Senators 37 points
2) Carolina Hurricanes 33 points
3) Philadelphia Flyers 32 points
4) New York Rangers 32 points
5) New Jersey Devils 32 points
6) Boston Bruins 31 points
7) Montréal Canadiens 30 points
8) New York Islanders 28 points
9) Pittsburgh Penguins 28 points
10) Toronto Maple Leafs 28 points
11) Atlanta Thrashers 27 points
12) Tampa Bay Lightning 26 points
13) Buffalo Sabres 25 points
14) Florida Panthers 25 points
15) Washington Capitals 20 points.

What's this all mean - well I had a longer more in depth correlation to the analysis I posted Saturday but the computer basically ate it and lunch break is almost over for me here at ICx Technologies so I'll summarize. The Caps still need to have an awesome remainder of the seasons; perhaps the only team in the Eastern Conference with as hard a road to travel is Buffalo. Washington's four games vs. the Canadiens are the most important, if any games are more important that just wining them all (simple right). The next most important games are those against teams in the Eastern Conference between them and Montreal in the Conference Standings. So until tommarrow - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Winter is here!

Winter is here - that white stuff outside is snow. Okay there's not much hockey news to talk about today. If you've already read other blogs you know Boyd Gordon has a broken hand and many commenters to posts elsewhere still want to speculate about the mystery surrounding the announcement. Me I take it at face value - the mystery to me is how he scored in OT with it - I believe he did (unlike some other commenters to various blogs) just goes to show me he and Chris Clark are cut from the same mold. Tough guys - old time hockey - LETS GO CAPS!!!! The world agrees the ice at VC is the pits. I commented on this a couple of days ago as have others. Something needs to be done. We don't need to be running the Veteran's Stadium of the NHL. Well I can't wait till Friday evening when I'll be able to watch the Caps on the tube. LETS GO CAPS (Oh I said that already). If I can't write anything too erudite, I may as well be brief. More thoughts tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Around the Caps Blogsphere on a Slow News Day

First is it me or are we now addicted to Hockey and looking for a Caps game every other night after the last couple of weeks? Seems a little unfair - first I'm od'd on it then I've got to go a week without it. What's worse is I have to travel for business the week of 12/10 so I will miss both the Devils and Rangers games; while I'm in San Diego and Albuquerque for various ICx Technologies business. (Someday "that lottery ticket" will come in and then I can be a hockey nut & sport-fishing/sailing bum again - oh to be a junior in college again - those were the days, eh?)

So as the day gets wrapped up I decided to take a quick tour around the Caps Blogsphere:

Japer wonders what's going on with Matt Pettinger and his slump. The variety of comments run the gamut, but most of us are all rooting for Matt. Last game, I was at (the 11 player shootout, I looked back at his wife, Chelsea, when he missed that chance to break the slump, and she obviously felt for him too. So I surmise it's eating at him. My 2 cents, he's getting the chances and soon that puck will drop. Any player with the utility level such that they are listed as both LW and RW by TSN who's been in the league as a "grinder" for 6 years after being drafted in the middle of the second round you have to root for. Don't you ?- well I do. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dmg has a couple of interesting links to other posts he's been working on that make some unique points. That said, I don't agree with a couple specific sub-points. First re: Ovechkin's next contract and whether he is worth "more" than Crosby's $8.7M per year. Comparative worth to Crosby is irrelevant in my view. Just because Crosby signed a contract that "kind of" matches his jersey number doesn't mean that Ovechkin should or will (8ish mil). What will drive Ovechkin is what he thinks he's worth and to some degree what he can get elsewhere. Also, if he's getting good advice from a financial perspective, it won't just be about salary but that will be a major item. From a public figure/celeberity & "value creation" perspective, do you think that A-Rod has issues with constantly getting his name in the press as the highest paid baseball player ever? Remember the old cliche' "The worst press is NO press at all." Truthfully, the loyalty of both Ovechkin and Crosby, and the common sense of both ownerships, will likely keep them both where they are for at least the current and next contract cycles. However, neither Pittsburgh nor DC provide the best markets for big name hockey players to maximize their earnings potential outside the rink; so something will need to be done that is very agressive. My prediction: AO wants 9+M closer to the 10+ CBA max - and he'll get it. I also wonder, if so much of the NHL website's pushing of Crosby might not be related to some marketing deals the league and the Pens might have worked out in addition to his 8.7M/year, 5 year contract. If anyone knows where a publicly available version of the pact, if there is one, I'd sure like to look at it for kickers that are NOT within the bounds of the salary cap. In closing to be clear I think both Ovie and "Sid the Kid" are worth the CBA max contract and I wonder why Crosby didn't insist on it. If it was to help the PENS with Salary Cap room elsewhere so they get another Cup - then he's a smart guy though; because long term/lifelong earnings potential for both will be greatly enhanced with a couple of Stanley Cup rings.

The next point dmg makes at Caps Blue Line is he doesn't like the marketing campaigns the Caps are currently running. He has several issues with the "tattoo parlor" commercial in particular. My view - I'm dense and like it (the Tattoo commercial) - to me Sports in General; Gratuitous Sex and Violence, and Hockey in particular all go together; and hockey IS the "cooler" alternative. Also the female fans at hockey games are: 1) nicer people AND on average more attractive than female fans of other sports so the tattoo ad just brings it all home for me. If we just had a commercial that went "Yo, Hockey is Cool and the "Chicks" (Sorry, I won't use rap slang to describe woman on my blog - look what happened to Imus - not worth going there!) are hot - come to a Caps game to see them both, YO! Now THAT would be "obvious pandering". Now maybe my point is biased, because I personally like hockey best AND I like to be able to talk about Hockey to both my male and female friends so that makes them more attractive to me. I don't really know - only talking from anecdotal data but, "I'm just sayin" ....

On Frozen Blog reports that Gene Weingarten, a syndicated humor columnist for the Washington Post is a moron. Based on the contents of the blog and his own words I am compelled to agree.

Peerless has some good thoughts on why Pittsburgh is struggling. However, most Caps fans will likely just be happy and enjoy the fact they are regardless whether they find his analysis insightful or otherwise.

CapsChick has an interesting article on how happy that today has been proclaimed "Abe Pollin Day" - NOT. Ted's Take clearly presents an opposing view point on this one; I think you have to give Ted some slack on this one. After all Abe clearly helped Ted work on closing some of his Life's 101 Things To Do List.

Even Tarik doesn't have much though the news on Clark and Gordon's injury status in none too rosy... How do we help Tarik get a Pulitzer for his "exclusive" stories on the coaching change anyway. He must have really scooped and embarrassed the rest of the traditional DC sports media, particularly the other print guys since he's really the only guy who made sure he covered it the day it happened. James Mirtle in Toronto had better coverage than the Washington Times - so much for the "fair and balanced coverage" of right leaning media such as the Washington Times and Fox News - it clearly doesn't extend to sports. Well I still like the Times' comics and some of their other stories/sections though.

So my conclusion from cruising the Caps Blogsphere is we're all a little strung out and confused by the lack of a hockey fix until Saturday. See you at the VC Saturday - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!