Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetic Justice?

Last night I got a email from my buddy Gary, a Flyers fan and USMMA Classmate. He just wanted to let me know he now knew how we Caps fans probably felt after Game 7. For those not following the Flyers - Canadeans series, last night the Habs beat the reincarnated Broad Street Bullies 4-3 in overtime. It seems that at 18:51 in the third period, Mike Richards, got what Gary (a swimmer, sailor, and avid Penn State football fan in other words a man wholly unqualified to be a surrogate NHL official) feels was an unwarranted 2 minute minor for "kneeing" when Richards' knee didn't make contact with anything other than air. The Canadeans' Alex Kovalev scored the tying goal at 19:31 forcing the game into overtime. Then early in the OT period at 00:48 Tom Kostopoulos, scored the game winner for Montreal.

This may make some other Caps fans feel good and garner some "poetic justice" however, for me, I've now moved on and am rooting for a Flyers - Sharks Stanley Cup Finals. For those wondering the Flyers are now down by 1 game to the Canadeans and tonight the Sharks open their semifinals series against the Dallas Stars in the San Jose "Shark Tank". I'll be watching Versus looking for my friend Pat and his son (Shark Season Ticket Holders) during the breaks in the action. In my heart I'll still be thinking about next year though - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Caps Free Agency Facts & Figures

Well here goes the first of my forward looking posts on the Caps for the 2008 -2009 season. Taking stock of what the current team status is. Here's a list of current Washington Capitals that are eligible for free agency (first the Unrestricted Free Agents and then the Restricted Free Agents) as well as their salary against the Cap for the 2007-2008 season and then my estimate of their likely resigning amount.

Caps Rostered Unrestricted Free Agents:

1. Sergei Federov; Center; 2007-08 Salary: 6, 080,000; Estimated 2008-2009 Salary Range: 2, 500,000 - 4, 250, 000 if he chooses not to retire, he is 39 years old.

2. Olaf Kolzig; Goalie; 2007-08 Salary: 5, 450,000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary Range:1, 500, 000 - 2, 000, 000 if he chooses not to retire, he is 38 years old. Probably won't be back based on how he cleaned his locker out today.

3. Christobel Huet; Goalie; 2007-08 Salary: 2, 750,000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary Range: 3, 250, 000 - 4, 250, 000

4. Matt Cooke; Left Wing; 2007-08 Salary: 1, 525, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 1, 250, 000 - 1, 750, 000. With Clark back and healthy is Cooke a luxury the Caps don't need or is Matt Bradley the redundant guy in this mix? Your guess is likely as good as any at this time, but you can't argue that Cooke didn't earn his pay since joining the Caps.

5. Matt Bradley; Right Wing; 2007-08 Salary: 700, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 700,000 - 800, 000. Cooke or Bradley? Is a choice really necessary?

Caps Rostered Restricted Free Agents:

1. Mike Green; Defense; 2007-2008 Salary: 850, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 4, 500, 000 - 5, 750, 000. No doubt that along with Poti the foundation of the Caps defence - he'll be resigned unless something truly bizzare occurs in the interim.

2. Steve Emminger; Defense; 2007-08 Salary: 1, 000, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 1, 000, 000 - 2, 000, 000. This is a toss up but Emminger's play against the Flyers means one way or the other he's on a NHL rooster at the start of next season.

3. Shoane Morrisonn; Defense; 2007-08 Salary: 900, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 1, 500, 000 - 2, 500, 000. No doubt will be resigned, again unless something crazy happens.

4. Eric Fehr; Right Wing; 2007-08 Salary: 800, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 850, 000 - 1, 300, 000. Will he be back? Probably but you never really know until you know.

5. Brooks Laich; Center; 2007-08 Salary: 725, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 1, 500, 000 - 2, 750, 000. After his breakout season this past year, Brooks Laich will be back next season.

6. Boyd Gordon; Right Wing; 2007-08 Salary: 650, 000; Estimated 2008 - 09 Salary: 1, 000, 000 - 1, 650, 000. Gordon will again be back as an accomplished grinder.

Hershey Bears who become UFA in July:

1. Josef Boumedienne; Defense; 2007-08 Salary: 500,000; Forecast for 2008- Will be resigned by Capitals and compete for roster slot in camp.

2. Fredric Cassivi; Goalie; 2007-08 Salary: 500, 000; Forecast for 2008 - Will Not be resigned by Capitals but will likely get picked up by somebody and may even become an NHL backup next season somewhere - 32 years old.

3. Jason Morgan; Center; 2007 - 08 Salary: 500, 000; Forecast for 2008 - Possible resigning but just as possibly not - 31 years old.

4. Dean Arsene; Defense; 2007 - 08 Salary: 475, 000; Forecast for 2008 - Possible resigning but possibly not - 27 years old.

Hersey Bears who become RFA in July:

1. Stephen Warner; Right Wing; 2007-08 Salary: 615, 000; Forecast for 2008 -

2. Jamie Hunt, Defense; 2007-08 Salary: 605, 000; Forecast for 2008 - will be resigned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thanks For a "Great Ride" this Year Caps!

Disappointed? Heartbroken? Yes I am. Thankful to the Caps - all of them - heralded and unheralded for a great, fun to watch season (since Thanksgiving) - absolutely. Tonight, everyone will point to one call (or lack thereof) as the reason the Caps lost. I agree the second Flyers goal probably shouldn't have counted but that's not why the Flyers won. Martin Brion's play in the third period is why the Flyers won. Brooks Laich handled his post game interview right on - that's exactly why the Caps will go even further next season, perhaps all the way - no excuses, taking responsibility for their actions and the results of them.

Now on to next season, today I got a partner for my seats next year. This is great news since my son is off to college (USMMA) in July and I have less reason to use them. Nothing but my own selfish love of going to games, which probably wouldn't have resulted in me buying the full season. Since I now have a partner for half the games, I'll gladly keep my seats. I know it's hard to look that far forward this soon after such an emotional loss for most fans but I'm already excited since the Caps have shown so much talent, promise and drive for the past 4 1/2 months. Looking to the return of Pothier, Clark, and Nylander - all of whom are signed and will be healthy, along with the great depth and play of the rest of the lineup is really energizing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bruce Garrioch Gets It Wrong Again - Big Surprise

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge Ray Emery fan - I'm for keeping either Kolzig or Huet before picking up Ray Emery.

That said how can you blame a guy who didn't play since the trade deadline for the Senator's "first to worst" slide and brief, four (4) game series against the Penguins? We're talking about a team of well paid, driven, professional athletes; can the then second string goaltender really be such a big distraction that he's the cause of all the Senators' woes over the last two thirds of the season? The issues Garrioch takes with Heatley and Spezza's play and the reverence for Alfreddson, in addition to the wasted venom for Emery, also seem a "little" misplaced to me. The Senators need some major changes this off season. Thankfully for those of us who are fans of teams that regularly compete with them, broad change doesn't appear to be the sentiment of Ottawa's management or main stream media. So once again, surprise, Bruce Garrioch gets it wrong - now this column is a bit presumptive - "doncha think so too?"

Tonight - Caps at Flyers - Game 6 - Win or Go Home for The Caps. Hey Garrioch take a look at the crowds in Washington's Verizon Center - still think DC isn't a hockey city deserving of Alexander Ovechkin? Well, as you can imagine Mr. Garrioch, those of us, who consider ourselves Hockey Fans in that other capital city in North America, really don't care all that much how you answer the question. Two more wins and the Caps will definitely not be playing golf before May, while your revered Ottawa Senators, will likely have well established 2008 Handicaps before "Alexander the Great" and his mates hit the celebrity golf circuit this summer. LETS GO CAPS!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caps Live to Fight Another Day!

The Caps did what they had to do to stay alive yesterday - they beat the Flyers 3-2 in regulation. In fact, through the first forty minutes of the game they pretty much dominated the Flyers. If not for super goaltending by Flyers goalie Martin Biron, the score could have easily been more lopsided. During one 20+ minute stretch the Caps limited to the Flyers to just one shot on goal.
Significantly, two of the Caps three goals came on the power play, the Caps power play production in games 1 - 3 had been relatively anemic. Before their two power play tallies in the game 4 overtime loss, the Caps power play was 2 for 15 (13.334%). In the last two games the Caps power play has been 4 for 10 (40%). Making the more penalty prone Flyers pay for their infractions and playing a disciplined game, avoiding the "Sin Bin" themselves, will likely be one of the continued keys to success for the Caps, as the Flyers work hard to keep Alexander Ovechkin bottled up. The move of Nicklas Backstrom down to Line 2 and Federov up to Line 1 seems to have opened things up slightly for line 1 while not adversely affecting the productivity of "the other Alex" - Alexander Semin at all these past two games. In game 5, Line 1 Linemates Alexander Ovechkin -Sergei Federov-Viktor Kozlov all were +/- +1 and had solid games. AO and Federov each had over 20 minutes of ice time last night; Federov scored an even strength goal and the trio combined for 11 of the Caps 26 shots. Ovechkin was held pointless however had 6 shots and was credited with 3 hits. Game 5 was a physical affair - playoff hockey at it's best. The Caps were credited with 44 hits (hit leaders were Donald Brashear - 7 hits in 6:52 of ice time and Dave Steckel - 5 hits, 4 takeaways in 15:06 of ice time) while the Flyers had 38 hits on the evening (led by Scott Hartnell with 7 hits in 15:58 of ice time). Those watching the game know the Caps had the momentum and intensity throughout the first and second periods of Game 5, they were clearly the more intense team. Unlike the heartbreak of game 4 where the Caps often outplayed the Flyers but couldn't seem to convert that into a lead for any length of time before being victimized by the sudden death winner in the second overtime by Mike Knuble at 6:40 of the second OT, last night the Caps took the lead at 7:31 of the first period and held it throughout the game.
Game 6 is in Philadelphia tomorrow night. Fans should expect it to be just as intense, if not more so, as last night's game. Flyers winger Mike Knuble is out for the rest of the series after injuring a hamstring last night. Knuble has been fairly productive for the Flyers so far this series - he has 2 goals, 3 assists and is +/- +3. The Flyers scoring leader is Danny Briere with 5 goals, 4 assists and a +/- +5. Briere has been his usual elusive self and is often found camped out nearby the left goalpost at the bottom of the slot or just outside the crease. His knack for being there during Flyer power plays has been most annoying to Caps defenders and troublesome for Caps goalie Christobel Huet. Both goalies, Christobel Huet for the Caps and Martin Brion for the Flyers, have played exceptionally well. Huet's Save Percentage for the series has been 90.2% overall, with a GAA of 3.14 including game 3 which was a bad game for the Caps and their goalie (Flyers 6, Caps 3). Brion has been outstanding throughout all five games thus far, his save percentage is 89.8% with a GAA of 2.59 including a 2-0 shutout of the Caps in Game 2. While the Flyers have been relatively successful in containing Caps superstar Alexander Ovechkin, during game 5 it appeared the Caps have adjusted and other Caps forwards are making the Flyers pay for their focus on the "Russian Rocket".
Entering Monday night's game, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau will be looking to dispense the same "elixir" he gave the Caps before last night's first and second periods. Even with a home ice crowd behind them, the Flyers will need to work hard to ensure the Caps don't bring forward the same momentum they had in game 5. While Knuble's injury will complicate things for Flyers coach John Stevens, the balanced Flyers offense (7 players with 20 or more regular season goals) is resilient. The Caps need another big game to bring the series back to Washington for game seven. It's a position the Caps seem to have grown used to since December ("win or die"), also if Ovechkin gets another game with 6 shots, 2 missed shots and 1 attempt blocked it's hard to imagine he won't net a goal (or two), even with Brion playing as well as he is. In the meantime, the Caps are showing a pretty balanced attack themselves so far in these playoffs. So far in 5 games 10 different Capitals have scored - Defenseman Mike Green leads the Caps with 3 goals, while Alexander Semin and Nicklas backstrom each have two goals, seven (7) other Caps including Alexander Ovechkin and Sergei Federov each have one goal. The last two games of the series have proven the Caps were and are a championship caliber team, as much as any other Caps fan here's to hoping for a Game Seven at the Phone Booth on Tuesday Night and here's to hoping Philadelphia Sportswriter Phil Sheridan is correct. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back on the "Beat" - Lovin' Life

Well Day 2 at the office after a great vacation is just winding up. I'm now caught up on email and listening to the Caps on the radio while wrapping up day 2 in reality. So far I've decided that for tonight at least that Briere guy is a pain in the neck if your a Caps fan - anybody else agree.

I happily watched Game 1 via satellite in the salon of my buddy's 58' sportfisherman at Chubb Cay with another hockey fan who had fished on a different boat that was also berthed there. After the game he took me down the dock to meet a guy who he was fishing with - Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, formerly of the NY Islanders and now the color commentator for the Florida Panthers. We talked hockey for 3 minutes and fishing for 5 more before I returned up the dock to "our boat". Now that was a great night. A great day of fishing; an awesome steak dinner with fresh tuna shashimi for the appetizer, some 2000 Bordeaux, a Caps Playoff victory and a nightcap of 1963 Coheleto Port to celebrate the fact my son will follow in the footsteps of myself and the 4 college buddies I was fishing with at the USMMA next year. Can you say - LETS GO CAPS!!! I sure could.

Anyway, I'll get back to reality fully tomorrow - 5 days with great friends, on a great boat, fishing in some of the best waters in the world left me in mental utopia till now. The third period just started and the Caps are still down 4-2. LETS GO CAPS!!!! otherwise I'll soon be hearing it from my buddy Gary - once and always a Flyers fan who thinks me a turncoat.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Federov & Huet - No Brainers?

On February 26th - the trade deadline, Washington GM George McPhee made several moves in addition to the Matt Cooke for Matt Pettinger deal. In all McPhee and the Capitals made three additional deals that day. They acquired veteran center Sergei Federov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Prospect Defenseman Ted Ruth; they acquired 32 year old Goalie Christobel Huet from the Montreal Canadeans for a 2009 2nd Round Draft Pick they had acquired earlier in the season for surplus backline center Brian Sutherby in November; and they traded 29 year old journeyman forward Joe Motzko to the Atlanta Thrashers for journeyman forward Alexandre Giroux.

The Caps picked up 27 year old center Alexandre Giroux for 28 year old Right Wing Joe Motzko. What this deal was about is really unclear other than trying to give two journeyman another chance at greener pastures isn't obvious. Though it does appear a fair deal and it did clear ~$100,000 of cap room for the Capitals next year.

In designating rookie Cary Price as their number 1 goalie and trading Huet to the Caps, the Canadeans picked up a reasonably good draft pick for a guy they were likely to not resign anyway. The Capitals picked up a "second" number 1 goalie to bridge from 37 year old Olie Kolzig to any one of several goalies in their development system. Whether the Caps resign Kolzig will be dependant on Kolzig himself. It's virtually certain after the past twenty games, the Caps will make an effort to resign Huet, who is an unrestricted free agent at season's end. The Caps also have 31 year old, solid backup, Brett Johnson signed under contract through the 2008-2009 season. There doesn't seem to be much doubt the Huet deal made a very positive impact in Washington and was a solid move by George McPhee. Since joining the Capitals, the 32 year old Huet has played 13 games, compiling an 11-2-0 record including 2 shutouts; while earning a Goals Against Average of 1.63 and a save percentage of 93.6%. Between Huet's and Kolzig's current salaries the Caps have $8M of cap room at the end of the season; between this and their other Cap room, they should be able to resign Huet as well as Defensive Phenom, Mike Geen who is a restricted free agent at years end. Either way - whether the Caps resign Huet or not - in retrospect this has been a no brainer.

The benefits of picking up of 38 year veteran Russian center Sergei Federov are a little more sublime. Federov, an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, has three Stanley Cup Championships under his belt; and is a solid steadying presence in the locker room for Washington' younger Russian phenoms. Federov has 2 goals and 11 assists in 18 games played with the Caps; additionally he has played well on both the Powerplay and the Penalty Kill units. Additionally, Federov is clearly a great 2nd line partner for LW Alexander Semin. Semin has been on fire the last games of the season and his cross-ice backhand pass to Federov to set up the game winner the other night was masterful. Clearly, playing with the first big name Russian to come into the NHL is both inspiring and reassuring for both Semin and Ovechkin. Semin has a center that understands his style of play and Ovechkin has a guy he talk to in his native tongue about the burdens and joys of super-stardom and chasing that first Stanley Cup. Just as Michael Nylander was a solid, steadying influence for Nicklas Backstrom during the first part of the season, Federov is the same for Alexander Semin. Whether Federov comes back to the Caps and they have room for him next season of not, the Federov pickup was indeed a no brainer - who is Ted Ruth anyway?

The Caps first playoff run in five years starts on Friday at Verizon Center against the Flyers. I'm on vacation till Monday so my next post after tomorrow morning may not be till Tuesday but hey - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!! Ovechkin for President - 2008!!!

A Tale of Two Matts

This is the first in a series of two articles looking at the Washington Capitals trade day deadline deals with the last weeks of the 2007-2008 NHL regular season in retrospective.In many ways the most interesting and surprising deadline deal was the Matt Cooke - Matt Pettinger trade the Caps made with the Vancouver Canaucks.

The Caps picked up Matt Cooke, a 29 year old left handed shooting forward from the Canaucks at the trade deadline for Matt Pettinger, a 27 year old left handed shooting forward at the deadline. Both are considered checking line forwards (aka "grinders"). Cooke an 8 season veteran counts $1,525,000 against the salary cap this year and will be an Unrestricted Free Agent in July. Pettinger is a 6 season veteran with a salary against the cap of $1,000,000 this year and $1, 100,000 in the 2008-2009 season before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in July 2009. Prior to the trade Pettinger was under-preforming his prior two seasons slightly and struggling to find a solid fit in Coach Bruce Boudreau's revamped, faster paced offensive game in Washington; Cooke was on pace with his prior two seasons but clearly not playing the type of relentless forechecking game he had become known for with the same level of intensity as during the prior year in Vancouver.

Pettinger's numbers before the trade were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Washington NHL 56 2 5 7 -11 25 98 2.04.

Cooke's numbers before the trade were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Vancouver NHL 61 7 9 16 -4 64 68 10.29.

Subsequent to being traded Pettinger's numbers for the remainder of the season were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Vancouver NHL 20 4 2 6 0 11 29 13.79.

Subsequent to being traded Cooke's numbers for the remainder of the season were:
Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2007-08 Washington NHL 17 3 4 7 +5 27 18 16.67.

In addition to the increased productivity (0.11 goals per game increased to 0.18 goals per game); Cooke also enhanced Washington's penalty killing and provided a gritty edge to their forecheck, forecheck, forecheck some more style. Pettinger's post trade productivity of 0.20 goals per game and shooting percentage of 13.79% were basically a return to form to his prior two years pace. Unfortunately for Pettinger and Vancouver fans, the Vancouver offensive production was relatively weak and they missed the playoffs finishing 11th in the Western Conference. The Caps finished with 7 straight wins, many of which Cooke and his two trade deadline compatriots Christobel Huet and Sergei Federov contributed to positively. Overall, this trade seems like a good deal for everybody, both players responded and amped up their play; Matt Cooke made the playoffs when he likely would not have done so; without the trade deadline moves it's open to debate whether the Caps would have made the playoffs though with the moves and super play by the entire team they did so. The Caps now have the option of talking to Cooke after the season and he has seen that Washington, DC can be a hockey town, as well as the fun players can have playing, a tough aggressive style of game his own style of play is well suited to under Coach Bruce Boudreau. He likely will be available to resign at a a reasonable salary, though the Caps have other Restricted Free Agents and Unrestricted Free Agents to look at and close with first. Pettinger has another full year on his contract with Vancouver and is playing in front of what amounts to, for him, a hometown crowd so is likely to continue playig well in Vancouver the City of ???? Clearly this unexpected move by Caps GM George McPhee and David Nonis made the deal to spark the two players and on Nonis' part to get something for a guy who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. By all measures when you look at the numbers and review the game tapes, this has to be regarded as a win-win for both players and both teams.

As the Caps move into the playoffs Matt Cooke's style of play and intensity will only help Washington even more. LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Flyers 2 - Penguins 0; Biron Finishes Regular Season With Back to Back Shut-outs

It's official, the NHL Eastern Conference third place Washington Capitals will face the sixth place Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2007 - 2008 season playoffs. As a kid I was a HUGE Flyers fan so I thought I'd have been a little bit conflicted. I am not at all though, so - LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Both the Caps and the Flyers are hot right now. The Flyers finished the season 7-1-1 with Marty Biron shutouts in the two final games. Even though Sidney Crosby didn't play in the final game, the Penguins played a solid game and the Flyers had to work to win two well deserved final regular season points. The Caps are 13-4-0 since March 1st, and Caps Goalie Christobel Huet had a GAA of 0.750 in the last three games of the season. The Caps finished the season with a seven (7) game winning streak and are the hottest team in the NHL right now. For the season the Caps have the second most improved regular season record; the Flyers have the most improved regular season record. The series will be hard fought and hard hitting. Injuries will play a factor. The Capitals have some injury challenges right now, particularly on Defense. Jeff Schultz went down in their season finale against Tampa Bay and did not return for the rest of the game; and as of this writing there has been no update on his status.

Updated Player Pos Injury Expected Return
04/07/2008 Jeff Shultz D Unannounced Questionable
04/06/2008 Chris Clark RW Groin Questionable for first round of playoffs
04/06/2008 Shaone Morrisonn D Upper body Questionable for first round playoffs
04/06/2008 Brian Pothier D Concussion Doubtful for first round playoffs
04/06/2008 Dave Steckel LW Finger Probable for first round playoffs;
02/06/08 Michael Nylander C Shoulder IR. Out for the season

For the Flyers their injury report is slightly less daunting:
Updated Player Pos Injury Expected Return
02/27/2008 Simon Gagne LW Concussion IR. Out for season
12/28/07 Mike Rathje D Groin IR. Likely out for the season
03/17/08 Derian Hatcher D Leg Out for season

Center Daniel Briere, Right Wing Sami Kapanen, Defenseman Jason Smith, and Center Denis Tolpeko were all also scratched and didn't play in the Flyers season finale against the Penguins today.

Over the course of the season the two Eastern Conference foes met 4 times and the Flyers led the series 3-1. Since the Caps Thanksgiving day coaching change the series was knoted at 1-1. All four games were tight, three of the four were decided by one goal and the only game that the margin of victory was greater than one goal was a game where the Flyers scored an empty net insurance goal in the final minute. Fans can expect this series to be hard hitting; fast paced and probably low scoring. Goaltending will be key for both teams, in the end it will however come down to Washington's big men against a balanced Flyers attack. The Flyers have seven (7) forwards with twenty (20) or more goals this season. The Caps have three (3) forwards including league goal scoring leader Alexander Ovechkin, along with left wing Alexander Semin and center Brooks Laich with more than 20 goals. They also have defenseman Mike Green with 18 (leader among all NHLdefenseman this year) as well as Victor Kozlov with 16 goals and rookie center Nicklas Backstrom with 14 goals. Additionally, trade deadline pickups Sergei Federov and Matt Cooke have made their presence felt on special teams since their acquisition. In goal the Flyers #1 Martin Brion has no NHL Playoff experience in his 9 NHL seasons, while backup Antero Nittymaki has 2 NHL playoff games under his belt in his three NHL seasons. On the Goaltender situation for the Capitals, they have two #1's and an experienced backup ready to go all with more playoff experience than either choice Flyers Coach John Stevens has. It seems clear, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau will look to trade deadline pick-up Christobel Huet, who is the hot goalie in DC. Huet has 32 wins this season split between Montreal and Washington; he's won his last 9 outings and has a save percentage of 97.0% (and a GAA of 0.750) in his last 4 outings. Like Biron and Nittymaki, despite playing 4 NHL seasons, Huet has limited playoff experience - he went 2-4 with a GAA of 2.44 and a save percentage of 92.9% for Montreal in the 2005-2006 season playoffs. If anyone is motivated to have a great playoffs though it's Huet; he'll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and each round the Capitals advance that he is in net will likely result in solid financial rewards for the NHL's only French Born player. Additionally, he's got to be motivated by the intense competitive nature all goalies share to drive his new team deeper into the playoffs than the Canadeans rookie of the year candidate, Cary Price, who he was cast aside for. If the Caps need playoff experience in goal, they can turn to current number " 1/2", veteran Olaf Kolzig. The 37 year old Kolzig has a 20-24 record in 45 playoff games including the 1998 playoffs when he backstopped Washington to the Stanley Cup finals. Sidelined, healthy scratch, Caps number two, Brent Johnson also has more playoff experience than both Flyers netminders combined. Johnson has 12 games of NHL playoff experience, most gained during the 2002 playoffs with the Saint Louis Blues when he went 5-5 in 10 games played.

The series will be fun to watch when it kicks off on Thursday or Friday; hopefully I'll be able to catch it on satellite - I'll be in the Bahamas, fishing for Marlin, Tuna and Dorado, with a few of my USMMA Class of 1982 Classmates on my Best Man's boat. It was a tough call but not that tough. We'll be fishing for four days from Thursday through Sunday, we'll spend a day or fishing the eastern side of the gulf stream around Bimini and dock for the night in Alice Town, one of Hemmingway's old hang outs. Then we'll proceed into the Tongue of the Ocean and spend two days fishing out of Chubb Cay Marina, some of the best Marlin fishing in the world in early April. Over the past four years this trip has become an annual tradition for five of us and each year we seem to find a way or reason why it's length needs to grow from it's original three day weekend duration. This year we are going from April 9th - 14th so I won't be making any blog posts during those from the 9th until the 15th.
I'm ready for a break, even if it means I'll miss the first few playoff games the Capitals have. Over the last month, we've had a lot of excitement. At work, ICx Technologies, has had am eventful couple of months. I was on a team that just finished submitting a competitive proposal for a large DoD CBRNE program, it was the largest program I've been involved in chasing since joining the company in 2006 and both exhilarating and pressure filled. One of our larger trade shows just concluded - ISC West - on Friday and during it, we had several product releases as well as product update releases. On my return from vacation, I'll be in the middle of chasing two more smaller DoD Force Protection initiatives that will keep me busy and occupied for the next couple of months. So a short break from the real world pressures with a few days of fishing in paradise, and maybe a cheeseburger or two there as well, will be a welcome respite.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Caps 3 - Panthers 1; Caps will face the Senators in the first round. Now if they can just get 6 of their 8 Defensemen healthy life will go from good to even better. LETS GO CAPS!!!! It's a 94 Point Night !!!!!!!!!!! I've said it before and I'll say it again - Ovechkin for President!!!!

Washington Capitals: In Control of Your Own Destiny!

Last night, the world of professional hockey changed for the Washington Capitals. Last night, their division rivals - the Florida Panthers took the control of leadership of the Southeast Division from the Carolina Hurricanes and handed to the red hot Caps.

Today's challenge facing the Capitals is retaining control of their destiny and clinching the division from those same Florida Panthers. The Caps have been RED hot the past three weeks and are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. Caps goalies - Christobel Huet and Olaf Kolzig have been very good, indeed almost flawless since the trade deadline deal that brought Huet to the Caps; in the last 17 games they have a combined GAA of 1.71. Unfortunately, the Florida Panthers have been playing very well recently as well, have a very good, hot goaltender in Tomas Vokoun who played superbly last night in Raleigh, and the Panthers are riding the emotional high that comes with breaking an 0-14 streak at Carolina last night. The Panthers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Vokoun is 30-29-8, has a Save % of 0.919, and his GAA is 2.68 for the season, he left last nights game after the first period with back spasms. However, last night Vokoun and backup Craig Anderson jointly had a save percentage of 93.5% stopping 43 of the 46 shots the 'Canes threw at them. The Panthers also blanked the Hurricanes' power play on NINE (9) occasions. Clearly, the Panthers are playing for something as dear to them as the playoff spot is to the Capitals - RESPECT. While no one need tell Coach Boudreau and the Capitals it would be a mistake to look past the Panthers; it would be a mistake to look past Florida tonight. Another "Biggest Game of the Season" and another RED OUT at Verizon Center tonight. If the Caps win - as the saying goes they're in. If they lose - well that isn't worth talking about. No predictions other than the Caps will be flying tonight, and as long as they do that and play their game, in a variant on a quote from "Any Given Sunday" they will be great. No predictions other than it will be a great end to a really great season no matter what. Unfortunately, it'll take 93 points, not the conventional wisdom 92 points, to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference this year. LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

After Getting Little Help Wed. Night, Last Night The Caps Helped Themselves

Wednesday night the Caps got little help from the "hockey gods, so they just took matters in their own hands and helped themselves last night. Wednesday, the Penguins did beat the Flyers 4-2. However, the Lightning couldn't keep pace with the Hurricanes falling 6-2, and the Devils let the Bruins get out of "The Rock" with a point in a 3-2 shootout game that NJ did ultimately win. So at the start of the night the Caps found themselves 2 points behind Carolina with a game in hand for the Southeast Division title, and 1 point behind the Flyers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Yes it started out another as "Biggest game of the season - do or almost die game' for the pucksters from DC.

The Capitals let the Lightning get an early lead. However, Alex Ovechkin tied it up with his 64th goal of his season at even strength. Then there was a controversial disallowed goal that left the score at the end of the first 1-1. During the first period the Caps out-shot the Lightning 20-5; Lightning net-minder Karri Ramo had single-handily kept his team in the game.

The second period was much more even and ended scoreless, so the third period started still tied 1-1. During the third period the game went back and forth for five or so minutes before the Caps started to take control. At 7:26 Jussi Jokinen was whistled off for 2:00 for cross-checking and Alexander the Great potted number 65 of the season on that power play to put the Caps up by one goal. From this point on, the Caps really didn't look back, though the Caps did have to kill off a 4:00 minute high-sticking double-minor to John Erskine. The Caps really stifled the Lightning power play on that one and Tampa started to get a little frantic. Matt Smaby was whistled off for holding at 14:00 and even though the Caps didn't score on the power play, shortly after returning to even strentgh, at 16:36, the Caps got some secondary scoring and breathing room from Boyd Gordon - "Gordo" netted his third goal of the season off an otherwise rebound stingy Karri Ramo . Defenseman Tom Poti "iced" the game with an empty-netter at 18:53. Right about this time is when things got "a little interesting" Doug Janick came on the ice and took a run at Tomas Fleischmann at 19:37 that Matt Bradley didn't appreciate. The net of it was "Brads" ended up in a pretty good "hockey fight" with Junior Lessard. The two had a pretty good "dust-up" that it appears the feisty Capital got the better of (see it on here), check out the nice upper cut square to Lessard's face. Doug Janick got 2:00 for roughing and a 10 minute game misconduct. Why Lightning Coach John Tortorella didn't get the same and a bench minor for setting up the whole thing and instigating it is beyond me - the Lightning coach clearly intentionally precipitated the brawl by sending too many men out on the ice. I'm an old school guy, and not averse to fighting, but the bottom line is the hit by Cooke on Lecavalier was clean. Lecavalier was in the middle of the play, it was an open ice hit with the Bolts star in proximity of the puck, and the reason the Bolts star went down was because he went into one of his own men. Hopefully, Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman send a clear message with a VERY LARGE fine of say $150,000+ against the Tampa Bay club; the whole thing along with Torterella's post game interview comments were classless and unjustified. In any case when Caps enforcer Donald Brashear returned to the ice, none of the Lightning, not even the volatile Tortorella, took him up on his offer to "tango". Perhaps it was the fact that the relatively diminutive Bradley, had already beat down one of their goons, or perhaps they all want to be healthy to watch the "lottery". In any case as Caps Chick is oft quoted of late - "It was a TWO point night.

It was a good thing the Caps won in regulation as once again they got no help from the "hockey gods" tonight in their drive to the playoffs. The NY Rangers shut-out the Islanders 3-0 to clinch a playoff spot and are now alone in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 93 points. For a very short while Caps fans had some hope when Toronto took a 1-0 lead over Ottawa but the Senators came alive and never looked back drubbing the rival Maple Leafs 8-2 and really never looked back after Dany Heatly tied it up at 11:12 of the first period. The win moved the Senators up to fifth place in the Conference, a loss would have dropped them squarely into a final game melee with the Caps, Flyers and Bruins they now can avoid if they win out. The Senators are still not without the real possibility of missing the playoffs after a start to the season that was as hot as the Caps was cold. Montreal beat the Sabres 3-1 at Bell Center in Montreal mathematically eliminating Buffalo from the playoff race.

This morning the Caps find themselves in Eighth Place and even in points with the Bruins at 92 points for the season. Boston has a one game in hand and is in seventh. In any case, tonight it's LETS GO PANTHERS!!!!! if you are a Capitals fan. If the Panthers can get a win or hold the 'Canes to a point, the Caps fate is back in their own hands. Saturday, it's another "Red Out" at the Phone Booth - don't change a thing! If you were at last night's game do NOT, I repeat do NOT WASH anything you were wearing, wear it in the same manner you did last night, and do the exact same ritual if you are going to Saturday's season finale. THINK PLAYOFFS - only good karma between now and Sunday morning, PLEASE! Here's a view of how the remainder of the season could go and how the Caps could finish anywhere from 3rd to 9th in the Eastern Conference. For third, the Caps need some help tonight from the Florida Panthers - they have to hold the Hurricanes to 1 point or less in the Hurricanes' final game of the season. While not impossible, it will be a pretty big task for the Panthers, the 'Canes lead the series 5-2 including 3-0 at RBC Center. Like I said, LETS GO PANTHERS!!!!! (till tomorrow, when the Caps play them at Verizon Center for their own finale). Also Caps fans will be rooting for the Bruins over the Senators - in regulation - tonight. That will move the Bruins into 6th with 94 points and the Senators will drop to seventh with 94 points and have to watch the rest of the season to see if they finish 7th, 8th, or 9th depending on what the Caps and Flyers do. First and foremost for the Caps is they still need to WIN on Saturday against the Panthers. They could get in if they don't but the odds are much better if they do. It isn't necessarily "Win and You're In" but it's close. If the Caps "Win Out" on Saturday, the only way they finish out of the playoffs is if the Flyers (with 2 games to go - vs. the Devils tonight and the Penguins on Sunday) get 2 or more points AND Ottawa beats the Bruins tonight AND the Bruins beat the Sabres on Saturday. There are a lot of injury situations around the league that make these final games even more sporting, the Caps aren't the only ones missing key players but in the end championship teams don't make excuses, they make their own luck. The Caps last game of the season is at home on Saturday versus the same Florida Panthers they need to root for on Friday night. The Caps lead the season series against the Panthers 4-3 and have not lost to them since Thanksgiving. If NHL Rookie Coach Bruce Boudreau goes 4-0 on the Panthers this season that will be the Caps 7th win in a row. Last night's win officially makes the Caps the hottest team in the league right now as they are 9-1-0 in their last ten (10) games. LETS GO CAPS!!!

Other good blog posts to read today: #1) Peerless's account of the game and summary as to how the Caps can finish anywhere from 6th to 9th - he forgot 3rd....but hey whatever. As for his overall post and quality of the account, I stand in awe of his peerless talents. I have no opinion on his minority opinion about the disallowed goal since I listened on radio. #2) On Frozen Blog for the line "Its starting to become a hockey town!" #3) Caps Chick's A View From The Cheap Seats - always a daily read for Caps Fans for recognizing Karri Ramo as the Lightning's future in goal. I agree - the guy was absolutely shelled by the best, just look at the shot chart on, a somehow managed to keep his team in it through 2 1/2 frames of a great game.

One more time for good measure - LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!, everyone at the VC tomorrow, our goal should all be to be as loud and positive as Goat - see Section 105 for details. Forget Schwarzenegger, amened the Constitution for Alex - OVIE for President !!!!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Scoreboard Watch Tonight For Caps Fans

There are four games on the NHL Schedule tonight and three of them have implications for the Washington Capital's playoff chances. Tonight's games: Boston Bruins @ New Jersey Devils; Tampa Bay Lightning @ Carolina Hurricanes; Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit at Chicago.

Detroit at Chicago is almost a don't care no matter who you root for. A Detroit win clinches the Western Conference for the Red Wings and mathematically eliminates the Black Hawks from the playoffs. These are two things that in all likelihood will occur anyway sometime this week, anyhow.

It's hard to say, who if you are a Caps fan you should root for harder - the Tampa Bay Lightning - gasp, the New Jersey Devils - gasp, or the Pittsburgh Penguins - double gasp. In truth rooting for them all wouldn't hurt, and especially rooting for them to win in regulation.

The Caps are tied with Carolina and a Hurricane loss would put Washington's destiny in it's own hands. In thinking about that, a Lightning win in regulation has to be first choice by a hair. It may also be the most unlikely to occur, the Lightning are 5-4-1 in their last 10; and 11-21-6 in away games this season. The 'Canes are 6-3-1 in their last 10, and 23-12-4 at home this season. The only positives for the Lightning are they've had a day off while the Hurricanes were taken to task last evening by the Capitals; AND Kari Ramo could have another "career night" like he did last week when he stopped 38 of 39 to lead Tampa Bay over Carolina 2-1.

Pittsburgh at Philly and Boston at New Jersey - what is there to say. The Caps are one (1) measly point behind both the Flyers and the Bruins and this is their game in hand. Personally I'm rooting for a Brodeur shutout and a big night for the Pens who will be playing to see if they can clinch the Atlantic Division. My dad always said if you're going to dream - dream big, it doesn't cost any so I'd like the see all three - Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and New Jersey WIN tonight. That would put the Caps in control of their destiny for the Southeast division and 1/2 game back of both Philadelphia and Boston with two games to go. It's truly and exciting and interesting time to be a hockey fan in Washington, DC these days. In fact in DC right now - What's Not To Like? - The Cherry Blossoms are blooming. Alex Ovechkin has the NHL lead in overall scoring by 5 points and goals for the season by 11 goals. The Caps just won their 5th game in a row. The Nationals have a new ballpark and are 2-0; and the Wizards are looking reasonably good for a playoff spot. Who says this town is all about politics? LETS GO CAPS!!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Not to Like? or I See Red People, I See Red People Everywhere!

Well as Caps Fans, "y'all", what was your favorite thing about tonight's home game against the Hurricanes? There was just so much to like. Here's my list what's yours? In really no particular order:
The easy thing to like - the final score.
Second easiest - 5 wins in a row. Will the Caps win out - it could indeed happen.
Others - Alexander Ovechkin's 63rd goal - a turnaround, blind slapshot on a rolling puck.
- Brooks Laich's goal - getting the powerplay going early.
- Matt Cooke's goal - the first of the game to get the Caps into a grove.
- Christobel Huet's stellar saves, there were many.
- Alexander Semin's powerplay goal to get 'Canes coach Peter Laviolette going "apoplectic" and probably useless from that point through the rest of the second period.
- Huet's "check" on the breakaway to stop a 1-0.
- Alexander Ovechkin stepping up when Staal made the tap of the stick on Huet.
- The defense being able to step up after Shoanne Morrison went down (possibly the only thing not to like).
- The fact the Caps outshot the Canes 39-22, yes Cam Ward is "that" good, if it weren't for him this game could easily have been 8-1 Caps.
- Bruce Boudreau not loosing any of his composure when there was bad calls against the Caps?
- Ted Leonsis wearing a Red Jersey instead of a suit - nice duds Ted, I would have been disappointed if you weren't in Red after that autodial phone call to the Caps faithful I got.
- The atmosphere in Verizon Center, especially the M-V-P chants for Ovie?
...Anyway I'll do an analysis tomorrow, I just enjoyed this game so much I wanted to post early and say I haven't had this much fun watching a pro hockey game since I was a kid in Philly and the Flyers won THE CUP. LETS GO CAPS!!!! I think the Cup will look good rolling down F street with the team.