Well the hectic pace of my week continued through last evening so by the time I got home and sat down the first period of the Caps - Canes game was already underway. I did get to the Caps game on Wed. evening - a colleague of mine from ICx Technologies, Rob went to the game with me. Rob is with ICx's Solutions Division in Sales & Marketing, and also a big hockey fan. Rob grew up in the SF Bay Area and his dad was a STH of the California Golden Seals. Rob is also a very sports minded guy having played Division 1 College football at BYU and then professionally as part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization. It's back to always being fun to watch the Caps since they have returned to the hard working team we have come to know. I myself wouldn't be a STH if I wasn't a huge fan but I find games even more fun to go to when you are with other fans or if you are introducing someone new to hockey. In Rob's case he isn't a new fan and is knowledgeable, but since he now lives in San Diego it'd been a while since he'd seen an NHL game or even a minor league game now that the Gulls have halted operations. This was the first time ever he saw either the sudden death OT or the shootout. So there was novelty in that, additionally we both agreed: 1) the game was well played; 2) the ice surface was horrible - you could see it visibly -in EVERYBODY's skating at one point or another and even how the puck moved throughout the entire game; and 3)there was one part of the third period (from about 7 min - 12 into the session) where the Caps seemed to break down a little and need to regroup. More on that coming.
First and foremost before I whine about a) the officiating and b) the five minute stretch of the third period where there was confusion I want to talk about my overall feelings about everything else Wednesday evening. Primarily, Wednesday night's game, even though a shootout loss, is in general and in specific reasons why I think everyone should pitch in and get Caps season tickets if you live in the DC area. The game was exciting to watch, well played by both teams (even though, perhaps because) they are in the SE division of the NHL and a great sports entertainment value. As I've started to say over and over, Alex Ovechkin, is a special player to watch, even if the rest of the Caps had bad nights (which they did not, in fact it was pretty much the opposite - I thought everyone had pretty good nights from my vantage point in section 103), Ovie's athleticism is something special to watch and his creative play and power bring it all home. Olie the Goalie and - unfortunately for us Caps Fans looking for two points - Tomas Vokoun's performances were also singularly worth the price of admission, last Wednesday. Were mistakes made and noticeable yes sure (when your team's star D-man fans two times a shot and critical pass it's hard not to notice and have that tinge of frustration but I'm sure the ice surface also contributed to things like that - sorry Tom Poti). Were there some general bad breaks for the Caps - like having two of last year's best scoring forwards out of action for an 11 shot shootout - sure; but the things I take heart in even though I saw that 5 minutes of less than the rest of the 55 minutes; it was clear this team wasn't giving up or going away. Call it struggling with a new system; call it struggling with a little fatigue because of a hectic recent schedule combined with skating in molasses instead of on ice; call it whatever you want they didn't give up, they just let the Panthers in their own end a little too much and didn't get quality shots for five minutes. Also, since the Panthers are an NHL team too, and have driven guys like Zednik and quality guys with fire in their belly guys like Jokinen, maybe it wasn't the Caps lesser play for those five minutes, maybe it was the Panther's greater play. If you watched the game, you know the Panthers earned the win, the Caps didn't give it to them. Hopefully, the Caps will use Wednsday nights OT loss as fuel to capture two points from the Panthers tonight at BankAtlantic Center, I believe they will. Yes my optimism persists.
Pet peeves, whines and kvetches will now begin.
I strongly believe the first star should have been Vokoun instead of Weiss. This is probably a petty pet peeve but it seems the shootout winner gets credited with a GWG and the first star of the game but the real game winner (if there is one since the "loser" still gets a point - and IMHO should do so) is the Goalie. In any OT or shootout loss the Goalie had to play well enough to keep his team in a tie (arguably at least as well as the other guy on the ice you'll compare him with - the opposing goalie) always a pressure situation in any sport with goalies, and then make one more save then the opposing team's goalie in a head to head competition with the opposing team's shooters. How does that mean Tomas Vokoun is the third star for the Panthers on Wednesday evening, Weiss only had 14:25 of playing time, was +/- 0 in regulation that ended in a 1-1 tie, and was not on the ice for the Zednick goal in regulation is the first star. I respectfully disagree - I know I'm partial to goalies everywhere - they're generally cool, eccentric, intense people - like my son, and I'm partial to cool, eccentric intense people.
I know I'm a Caps fan and biased. There's probably a Canes fan who was at last night's game at RBC and a Panthers fan who watched Wednesday game with the diametrically opposed feeling to what I will say next. I also know officiating professional sports can't be easy. (Disclaimers that I'm a rational, usually level headed guy out of the way). However, why is it in 3 out of 4 games I watch live (attend), I always feel the Caps get the worst of the missed or wrong calls. I don't consider that when watching games on TV since you have no chance of seeing the behind or ahead of the play moves and efforts by the folks outside the field of view of the camera so I can't comment on the whole of the possibilities for last night's game. Wednesday evening of course was no exception and others have discussed it in more length (in addition to their feelings about the officiating last night at RBC) but the missed/not made call at the back side of the OT was particularly disappointing - our Caps could have used that point and the unit on the ice was working very hard for it. Another man advantage would have been helpful.
I know that others are looking at things and making points that strongly support an opposing view to what I will say here next. I continue to believe the following the team is better served by NOT having Ovie and Nylander on the same line at even strength. My onion may change after Coach Boudreau's system is fully in place but so far here's what I see and why I say the prior statement. 1) Ovie and Nylander have different styles of play. Ovie doesn't need Nylander to carry the puck into the zone and make time for Ovie to get free, at least from what I see. So far it doesn't seem that opposing teams are having to play in a way that let's either of the two get open or better shooting lanes more often from my vantage point in Sec 103. Of course that's not a vantage point that in any way really qualifies me to make these judgements. 2) The Ovie-Kozlov combo has been working well and it let's the Caps first and second lines be on par with many team's first lines, as well as let's them play a different, and again from my vantage point (the love seat in our rec room for away games and a lower bowl corner seat at the VC) faster, tempo game thorough the periods two and three. 3) I continue to believe it's better to let Backstrom mature more before moving him to line one or two and he is the one bringing the secret sauce to lines 3 and 4 that has caused them to elevate their level of play lately as well (why is this pertinent - cause it's all interrelated in some way isn't it?) Oh and awesome move in the shootout on Wednesday Nicklas - thanks!
Verizon Center's ice surface quality hit a new low on Wed. evening and something needs to be done. No bones about IMHO it truly affected how the teams played the game, in a very adverse way. Having grown up in Philadelphia watching Wednesday evening's game reminded me of how much the poor playing surface at the Vet affected the Eagles - from how they and opponents played to being able to get quality free agents to sign. Even if the poor ice surface doesn't have quite as much impact re: injuries and potential for injuries as the Vet's poor surface did in the NFL, if this continues there will be no doubt in any players mind it slows the game down considerably. If you like slow, soft ice I guess you'd be more inclined to come play for the Caps but my guess is that most pros don't like it and prefer hard ice where they can adjust things to fit their style of play more effectively by the way they have their skates sharpened and the way they handle the puck. Even a lesser NHL'er has pretty quick hands. We need something to be done about this quickly. Hopefully, the landlord can be worked with to work this out and improve the surface and the ability for the folks at VC to make a better surface faster soon.
I've rambled a lot, so I'll wrap up quickly since most of the rest of the news from here in Bristow is either impressions of last night's game from my rec room love seat vantage point or of lesser interest, generally. Other goings on are.
The week was crazy but productive for me at ICx, a group of us met and clarified our team's product development plans and initiatives for 2008. Always a number of things it seems 1) intense and not allowing time to do much else since it somehow becomes an pretty all consuming effort when it pertains to intellectual capacity; 2) an exercise that really builds the team (if done even half right) and 3) one where everyone gets even more then they thought in the way of give and take communications when you have a group that truly respects each other's ability to contribute to the team (which I'm very happy to say we do).
Last night's game - what can I say the other reports and bloggers haven't already posted. The Canes won, we lost; it was another well played by both teams and another fair step back up to respectability for the Caps. Japer is: up on Poti (so am I); down on Pothier (I disagree); down on Nylander (for me the jury is still out some games he earns his 5.5 mil some games not so much so leaning the way Japer is now); still down on Jeff Shultz (me too but not as much, he's just a big kid after all but I miss Ben Clymer - anybody know what Coach Boudreau thinks about him?); way up on Mike Green (me up on him but not as much still gets a few questionable PIMs but he is quickly growing in to a top 2/3 D-Man); and really happy that the average SOG is up under Boudreau - ME TOO - kind of hard for the other guys to score on you when their goalie is blocking shots. CapsChick is: a little perplexed (me too always); amazed and happy about the consistently high level of Ovie's play these days (me too CC - it's gonna cost you chief - just sign him to the league CBA max deal now Ted/GMGM; no doubt someone else will offer it to him now); thought the Fleischmann-Backstrom-Semin line clicked (no opinion here on that one since I often get distracted when I'm in the rec room and my mind was still thinking about some of the discussions we had re: using WCF in a particular manner for internal messaging in our in-development products); Laing's debut was successful because of his PK efforts (again thinking more about messaging constructs to have a strong opinion); and finally Seidenberg is public enemy number 1 (ME TOO BIG TIME - and he didn't even get a penalty? Can you say slashing, how about intent to injure (please watch the replays Colin Campbell) - it was a "two hander" - I can but apparently the refs last night - not so much. dmg's thoughts are: all the breaks went the Canes way (everyone I really saw did but I maintain you make your own luck and the Canes did that too); the refs and officiating were poor and he was really nappy with the way they called the Green Hooking penalty - NOT (me too); makes a good point about overstating things by the Caps Broadcast team and misspelled intimidating (I think) (no comment other than Laughlin does say some pretty interesting bloviations from time to time but he was a great Cap so cut him some slack - the other half of the broadcast team (Joe B.) - please not so much); LaRose and Kolzig are both class acts (me too); Ovie should be a little more careful and tone done the celebrating lest he hurt himself (after last night's game ME TOO - we need you every game and fully healthy great 8, especially when other guys are going to two hand your Russian buddy's ankle and not even get a two minute penalty.)
If you got this far you must really appreciate my mediocre writing - thanks I'll try my best to do more frequent, therefore shorter posts the rest of this new month. Oh and LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!