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 www.hockeyfights.com) 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!!!!!!!