I went to last night's game versus the Leaf's with my friend Pat from work (ICx Technologies). Pat's a New Hampshire boy and a hockey fan too. We had a blast from our dinner of "dollar dogs" through watching the great game as the Caps and Leafs "duked it out" through three closely played periods of hockey.
This is a late post and I'd have to say DMG, JP and CapsChick all have drawn a good bead on this one, so I'll digress a little about a couple of things in the current NHL era I like and a couple I'm not wild about.
Things I like in the current era:
- "No Red Line",
- No "Icing the Puck" Against the Boards,
- Dollar Dog Night,
- Slower Whistles When the Goalie Ices the Puck,
- Ovechkin, Datsuyk and the other Russians who Skate, Hustle, Score AND Hit/Check HARD.
Things I'm Really, Really Not Wild About
- The Mandatory Delay of Game Penalty,
- Calling Boarding Penalties When Someone Makes a Solid, Good, Hard Check,
- "The Trap",
- The Instigator Rule,
- "The Trap",
- Giving an extra two minutes to a player with a visor who fights, especially when he didn't start the fight,
- "The Trap"
- The idea that high scoring game draws more fans,
- "The Trap".
Yes after the last two night's games against the Maple Leafs, I'd like to say Thank You Bruce Boudreau for changing the style of play the Caps use and "trapping" less. The past two games really exemplified why I don't like "The Trap": 1) it's no fun to watch; 2) the team that plays the best doesn't always win (re: Wednesday Night in Toronto); 3) it doesn't necessarily make average players better/isn't necessarily more forgiving (re: the stats of the Caps' grinders since the coaching change). On the other hand, best of all you don't have to play it to win - (re: the Caps record since the coaching change). Gary Bettman if you really want to draw more fans, outlaw the trap just like you can't play zone defense in the NBA; pro hockey teams/players shouldn't play the trap.
A couple of kudos on the game. Last night's game was fun to watch, but the Caps ought to be glad most of them have a few days off, they are clearly playing tired. Last night's first star was Brent Johnson - "Johnnie" play superbly and deserved the first star. He faced 32 shots and stopped 31 of them, including some spectacular saves from all angles from super glove save grabs to break up plays to thwarting some breakaways. The first goal - Brooks Laich's goal, was a super team effort and while I never saw the tip, Laich may deserve the goal just for getting in front of an Ovechkin slapshot. The maturity and two way play Alex Ovechkin shows every game this season is stupendous. In many cases his hustle to a backcheck or his play making is as spectacular as his goals. His involvement in both of last night's scores are reflective of that great work ethic and team spirit. Ovie is now all about playing to win, not about Ovie and it's as contagious as Quintin Laing's hustle and great play and Donald Brashear's great locker room leadership. Speaking of "Brash" the Caps resigned him yesterday as well. I think that's another good move by Caps management.
My last thought - the Caps have gotten back into the playoff fray with a streak during which the Caps have played 10-3-2 in the last 15 games. To make the playoffs the Caps will have to continue to play with the steadiness of purpose, and indeed near abandon they have since Thanksgiving. It's way too early to count any of their Southeast Division rivals out of things, and it's way too early to figure that it will take less than 88-92 points to make the playoffs. That means the Caps need to continue to play the same level of hockey - 0.655 (17-8-4) they have under Coach Boudreau. Indeed to finish clearly in the playoffs (92 points) they need to play 0.640 hockey for their remaining 32 games. Each win makes it easier now and it's not an impossible thing to imagine before their recent 10-3-2 tear but it's way too early to resign yourself to not getting your money's worth from your April Country Club minimums (not that I'm the CC type at all). My point is everyone needs to just keep their head down and hope for the best. Keep rooting for the Caps, watching the attendance improve, etc. The Caps themselves need to continue enjoy playing hard and winning and everything will work out. Confidence is fine; overconfidence is always unwelcome, and not useful and at this time still entirely unjustified.
Next week - Home & Home vs the Montreal Canadeans. The Caps are 7-3-0 for the last 10 and the Habs are 7-2-1 going into the All Star Break. Next weeks games should be good ones and I can't wait till next Thursday to see the Caps work to continue to improve what could be a great overall season record. LETS GO CAPS!!!!