Well day three back home here in scenic Bristow begins and it seems like things are getting back to some sort of normal pace. My wife, Cinday, was discharged from Bryn Mawr Hospital on Thursday after lunch and we made our way back home with a short stop to pick up Dmitri, one of our three Tibetian Terriers from the breeder's home/kennel. Of course, the transition back home wasn't without one challenge, the pharmacist couldn't read the resident's DEA number on her perscription for pain killers so that took a few minor gyratios but by Friday Morning all was right on that front; and the CPM (continuous passive motion machine) wasn't delivered until yesterday but now we have a routine that will be in place for a couple of days until she starts going to outpatient pysical therapy at Prince William Hospital. This whole experience has been both educational and motivating. Cindy and I are now motivated to take better care of ourselves, since while she was in the hospital we saw a lot of things going on with folks in the 60's and 70's that could have been amoelerated if not entirely avoided had they taken better care of themselves at our age (something my family doctor has been telling me for two years). In any case, over the past 2 1/2 weeks with only minor changes to my diet, I have lost about 10 pounds (the 10 I had gained over the prior 6 months), of course that's 10 down and 50 to go....
Of course normalcy means back to work and following the Caps at this time of year. As with any break from work the hard part is always catching up after you return from whatever hiatus you take and these past three days have been very hectic. Life at ICx Technologies did not in any way, shape, or form stand still while I was away. Of course I did work while I was away but I also deferred several things till I got back home and am now pushing very hard to get caught up. The three day weekend should help a little on that front and I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after working most of yesterday. That said it is a busy time of year for the aspects of the business I work in - of course being busy is a lot better than the alternative - which is not being busy when you should be.
As for the Caps I did catch both Friday Night and last night's games on the tube, which is where I'll probably catch the Islander's game on Wednsday evening from as well. As things stand the Southeast Division remains wide open. The Caps (62 points) are now two points behind the Division leading Carolina Hurricanes (64 points) but have a game in hand. They are also tied in points with the Atlanta Thrashers and again have a game in hand on the "bluebirds." Friday night's 3-2 overtime loss didn't help the Caps cause for the division title nor has their February perfromance against Southeast Division rivals, the Caps went 1-3-1 against Southeast Division foes in February. Last night's 3-2 win in regulation against Tampa Bay was a nice but their next in division game against Carolina in RBC Center next Saturday is even more important. Of course first the Caps need to beat the Islanders on Wedsnday night here at the Verizon Center. Right now the Caps are second in the Southeast Division - 2 points behind the Hurricanes and tied in points with the third place Atlanta Thrashers as well as just two points ahead of the fourth place Florida Panther bu the Panthers have a game in hand on the Caps. In the Conference race the Caps are currently tenth in the Eastern Conference two points behind the eighth place Boston Bruins and the ninth place Buffalo Sabres. They are also only one point ahead of the twelth place Islanders. It continues to be both cliche' and true that when looking at the Caps schedule and the Division and Conference standings, for the Caps and the rest of their Southeast division mates, evey game has playoff implications. In fact, while the Southeast Division race is the tightest right now and could have the highest stakes, since it is very possible only the division winner will make the playoffs, all three division races in the Eastern Conference are in play. Even in the Northeast division, the Montreal Canadeans have cut the Ottawa Senators, once commanding, lead to just two points. In the Atlantic Division the early leaders - the Philadelphia Flyers have faltered of late going 3-7-0 in their last ten games and have dropped to third in the division and sixth in the conference with 65 points, while both Pittsburgh and the New Jersey Devils have surged. At present the Devils lead the Atlantic with 71 points and the Penguins are close behind with 69. Over in the Western Conference, the only thing that looks probable to a virtual certainty is that Detroit will will the Central Division, the Western Conference and the President's Trophy and that neither the Los Angeles Kings, the Chicago Blackhawks or the Edmonton Oilers will make this year's playoffs though nobody is mathmatically out of contention yet. As a final general note on standings and statisitics, despite being regularly called the weakest division in the NHL, all four teams in the Eastern Conference, Southeast Division, have winning records over a) their last 10 games and b) since the All Star Break when the "push to the playoffs" is generally thought to occur. That doesn't help the Division get any more playoff spots though where it once appeared certain the only SE team in the playoffs would be the Division winner, it is possible that two or even three Southeast Division teams could surge to a position that would enable them to qualify for the seventh or eighth spot as well. The next four weeks are truly going to be wild in Eastern Conference play.
Friday night's game was indeed disappointing, the Caps didn't play badly, of course they didn't play great either since they came away with zero points on the short end of 4-2 score against the Florida Panthers. The Caps took too many penalties, ending up in the box seven times and were outshot by Florida; they did "out hit" the Panthers 28 - 26 and I felt two of the penalties against the Caps were questionable calls, but the game was called the same on both ends and the Panthers ended up in the box five times. All in all the Caps just left Brent Johnson "naked" a couple too many times, ending up down by one with 11:33 to play in the thiord period on a night when Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun was on his game and stopped 30 of 32. While as Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis notes on his blog the game was there for the taking but that didn't happen and the Caps found themselves two points back of Carolina and tied with Florida in the Division point totals again.
Last night was as noted by CapsChick - another "heart stopper" but thanks to super play by goalie Olie Kolzing and Alexander Semin (aka "the other Alex") the Caps came away with two points in regulation against the suddenly hot Tampa Bay Lightning. Olie Kolzig had a shutout going through 2 full periods and 15:39 of the thirds period in what was until then a true Goaltenders Duel. All in all Kolzig stopped 39 of 41 shots he faced and Johan Holmqvist stopped 32 of 35 shots. Both netminders routinely stoned the best scorers/shooters of the opposing team and as is the case some of the top scorers in the league. Tampa Bay managed to blank the other usually prolific, league leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin despite Ovie getting 5 shots on goal including two instances where Holqvist came up big. Alexander Semin had an awesome game setting up Tomas Fleischmann for a power play goal at 16:12 of the first period for what was, a long time, the only goal to get by either netminder. The second period was a fast skating, high flying affair and while the Lightning outshot the Caps 24 - 12 (yes thats right 24 shots in the second period alone), both Kiolzig and Holmqvist were perfect during the middle period of the game and the second period ended like the first - the Caps leading 1-0. The game was a clean one the Caps only took one penalty Matt Bradley went off for two minutes giving the Lightning their only power play opportunity at 18:17 of the second period. The Caps penalty killing unit held off the Bolts during that man advantage, despite the Lighting getting off 7 good shots during the waning minutes of the second period. During the third period for the first 15 minutes it was more of the same from the first period, then the Bolts came swarming and seemed to overwhelm the Caps scoring two gaols in less than a minute so the game was tied at 16:22. Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau wisely called a time out and settled the team down so that right after the time out Alexander Semin put the Red, White and Blue back on top for good at 17:00 in the third. Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist, as well as 6 shots and was +1 for the game. Semin was "robbed" by two other awesome Holmqviist saves as well, in what was clearly his best game this season. David Steckel and Tomas Fleischmann should imagine they are playing the Lightning every time they get on the ice when you look at their career statistics. With the win, his 21st this season, Kolzig's GAA is now below 3.00 (at 2.99) and his save percentage has risen to .889 for the season. Alexander Ovechkin is the leading sorer in the league, despite being blanked last night. Ovechkin's 78 points is two better than Tampa Bay's Lecavilier and 3 better than the Penguins Evgeni Malkin. The Great Number Eight's 48 goals are 8 better than Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuck. In order to make the playoffs the Caps need more games like last night and a lot less games like friday night. Next up the Islanders - Wednsday at the "Phone Booth" - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!