Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
This week's adventures started when I spent this past Tuesday morning at the local middle school as a Prince William County Department of Education "Resource Speaker" for Career Day. It's something I've participated in three years running and always interesting. Over the course of the morning six groups of middle school students come to a table and "interview" me. As in the past they start with a prepared list of 10-15 questions (this year it was 15) that they later have to turn in for a classroom assignment or extra credit I assume. The 15 questions are ones you'd expect - 1) How did I get into the field? (I do "Engineer"). 2) What special training or education do you need to get into the field? 3) Are there opportunities for advancement? 4) What's a typical day like? 5)How much do people in the field usually make? 6) What do you have to wear to work? 7)Do you have to travel outside the area? 8)Do you commute to work? Etc. If you keep them on track you also have time to let them ask other questions that they really want to ask and this is where the real fun begins. Besides the usual one that you get at least every other group - Do I have a son or daughter that goes to their school or a nearby middle school? (No our only son graduated from Battlefield High last year and is in college.) there are a couple that they usually ask like "What kind of engineer are you and how is that different from other engineers or the type of engineer i think I want to become? (From those really into it.) This year the first 5 groups I had were filled with 6 in each group except the last group in which I had 4, so that's 34 8th graders with some interest in possibly becoming engineers, not bad my understanding is that's about 15% of the class. That was the good news, the bad news only one of the 34 was female. The woman at the other end of the gym for "modeling" sold out - all females. I guess I'm wondering what things would have been like for me if I had been in spot at the middle of the gym and at the end opposite the "modeling lady" had been a guy with a sign "professional athlete"? I'm betting he'd have been a lot bigger draw then the Prince William County Prosecutor who was there. Oh well, we in the technology industries just need a LOT more shows like CSI and NUMBERS on prime time and those that fell like me need to do a better job of explaining why we enjoy our careers and find them rewarding. It's something that companies like ours at ICx Technologies need to do more of and I'm thankful that ours is an enlightened company that encourages us to do this time of outreach and community service. My last question to them - What are you doing for Thanksgiving? - anecdotally, over 80% traveling locally or regionally to spend it with family, if you're interested in that sort of thing.
Tuesday night I picked my son up at Union Station and Wednesday we spent the majority of the day driving down to Myrtle Beach. I did enjoy watching the last 1/2 of the third period of the Hurricanes 3-1 home loss to the Flyers before calling it a relatively early night. Of course I was very pleased to see the Caps beat Atlanta on the Hurricane's post game show. Thanksgiving Day our family has a number of customs and traditions that are related to going out to an early dinner and then spending the afternoon together doing something. This year we went to a movie together - "The Four Christmases" - apropos and funny - at Broadway On The Beach, I'd go again but that's not the awesome one. Later that evening my son and I returned to Broadway At the Beach's IMAX theater and saw "The Dark Knight" in an IMAX (2D) Theater with a great sound system. It was as they say, totally worth the $16.00 price of admission and I wish they'd make more real movies like this in IMAX and show them in the few IMAX Theaters around DC. How about a "Miracle" or "Slapshot" remake in IMAX - that'd get the hockey crowd out I'd bet. Then yesterday, once again the day spent traveling back home. As much as I hate to admit it, now that we don't see our son much since he's at school most of the time, being locked up together in the car for 5-8 hours isn't so bad. We always seem to have plenty to catch up on.
Well now, "How about 'dem Caps?" What a difference a week makes. The call-ups have now played two home games and the Caps held there own. Tonight the Caps travel to Columbus, OH to take on the 9-10-3 Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are led by their sharpshooter Rick Nash but have dropped three straight at home. The Caps have lost their last three road games though against teams that are all arguably (at least in Los Angeles' case) stronger then the Blue Jackets. The Caps will likely once again field a team that has at least 5 names on the ice that weren't part of the opening night roster due to injuries. The big questions in this blogger's mind are: 1) who will start in goal, will Jose Theodore who was "lights out" awesome last night want and get the start or will it be Brent "Johnnie" Johnson who has also been "pretty darn good" so far this season too? and 2) will either Mike Green, Tom Poti, Sergei Federov or Alexander Semin make it back to the lineup tonight, and if Federov makes it back will he play "D" or Center? Interestingly, if the Caps win tonight in Columbus, they will have captured 20 of 30 available standings points in the month of November. That's 0.667 hockey, in spite of being almost snake bitten on their most grueling road trip of the year and playing 8 of 15 games against teams that were playoff teams last season. They've also gone 7-1-2 against Eastern Conference Teams during the month. They remain on pace for a 104 point season, despite a spate of injuries that at least from this vantage point appears "second to none" in the NHL so far this season. Ending the month with a win in Columbus, especially if it's accompanied by Anaheim beating Carolina at RBC Center tonight, would be a great way to celebrate Bruce Boudreau's first "anniversary weekend" at the Caps' helm. Heck while we're at it let's root for the Devil's to win their sixth straight without Martin Brodeur when they face the Pens at the Igloo tonight as well.
Given that the injuries now will add some additional suspense to the December schedule as the Caps continue their quest for dominance in the Southeastern Division, and a run at potentially winning the Eastern Conference as well; starting the month tied with the Penguins for second in the Conference and 5 points ahead of the Hurricanes in the Division sounds great to me. Of course to make that happen, once again tonight the Caps have to stick to their system and get some solid play and secondary scoring from the third and fourth liners. The system and the relentless forechecking will be needed to tie up Rick Nash, "young gun" Derick Brassard, Jason Chimera, R.J. Umberger, and Kristian Huselius in the neutral zone, just like the Caps did last night to the Canadeans. Then to win the game the Caps should look for a team effort to put three or more pucks to the back of the net, again just like last night. I'll be "Rockin' the Red" from the settee in Bristow, VA. How about "y'all"?
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Friday, November 28, 2008
#1 Most interesting statistic: Caps ice time leader? -Defenseman, Milan Jurcina, 23:39.
#2 Most interesting statistic: Caps hit leaders 1 & 2? - #1 Ovechkin - 8 hits; # 2 - Jurcina -3 hits.
#3 Most interesting statistic: Jose Theodore - 28 saves.
More tomorrow morning.
Next up - Columbus in Columbus.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Before the advent of the of this post lockout rule changes, since by conventional wisdom we Americans don't like ties (I guess we're all like Donavan McNabb?), a game that ended in a tie in regulation time was indeed a tie and the two teams basically split the available points. Conventional wisdom today by most who follow this situation seems to be that it is the loser who is getting "the extra point." Being a "purist" - self proclaimed purist that is - I maintain that since in the "good ole' days each team got a point when the third period buzzer sounded and the score was tied, it is the "winner" who is getting the extra point, and in effect winners in regulation are penalized over time since there is nothing better about winning in regulation then winning in extended play. I further maintain that these extra standings points are, in part, why at this juncture of the season twice as many teams are on track to amass more than 100 points this year (10 teams) then last season (5 teams).
As such, my suggestions is that ALL games be worth 3 points, winners in regulation getting all 3, and when a game goes into extended play the two teams split the points, 2 to the winner and 1 to the loser. I also believe losers in regulation should still get no (as in Zero) points despite all discussions about potentially helping the 5 teams with the worst NHL records with some sort of 1.4 trillion point bailout between now and the end of this season.
What do you think? Write Gary Bettman Now and tell him you are for the universal implementation of the 3 point game if you agree!
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!
Time to "Rock the Red" and pound some "Bluebird" tail.....
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Any more detailed look at or analysis of the match up is currently muddied and complicated by the Caps injury situation and lack of clear understanding on who will really suit up. Tune in to see just how many Hershey Bears end up making the drive from Hershey today or have already made it that we don't know of right now. I'll be "Rockin' the Red" while driving to Myrtle Beach to spend the holidays with relatives and for the first time this season neither my partner Tom or I are using our seats - compared to last season that's quite a great statement for me to make 1/4 of the way through the season. However, I'm sure Tom gave them to a worthy, nice person so here's to hoping they are Caps Fans and they are happy when the third period buzzer sounds.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
While looking ahead at the start of this month's schedule it appeared November was probably the most important gauge that would for tell how the Caps' 2008-2009 season would go, it can probably now be said that because of the injury situation, as the end of November approaches, that "make or break" period has to be extended through the next 17 games through the end of December as well. In particular, between today and December 13th (a 19 day period) the Caps have another 10 games. Of the 17 games between now and December 31st, 15 are against Eastern Conference opponents of which 3 are against Southeast Division rivals. To be sure, both the Southeast Division opponents and the Caps' traditional rivals will look to these games to capture some standings points against the injury depleted Capitals. It is probably for that reason, that the character the Caps showed in trying to come back and capture a win against Minnesota last night after going down 4-0, is so important.
Once again Coach Bruce Boudreau's familiarity with the Capitals' player development pipeline, and the fact that the Hershey Bears, under Coach Bob Woods, play the same system as Boudreau's Capitals will need to be relayed on to make up for the holes in "the big club's roster." Will it be enough? Who really knows? We won't be able to tell until much until mid-December has come and gone. Further complicating putting solutions in place to address the challenges injuries create for the Caps over the next four weeks are two things: i) the current lack of salary Cap space the Caps have and b) the CBA requirements which mean that once a player plays 10 games on an NHL team's roster, he has to clear waivers to be put back down onto a club's AHL associates' roster. What's that mean? Well in the likely event the Caps call up someone like Sami Lepisto or Karl Alzner up to fill in for Jeff Schultz over his projected 4+ week period on injured reserve, who ever they decide to send down to Hershey to make Cap room for Schultz when he returns will have to clear waivers. Right now it's very possible that any of the Caps likely choices for that trip could get picked up by another NHL team. All three of the development pipeline players: Tyler Sloan, Sami Lepisto and Karl Alzner, as well as the Caps third defensive pair of John Erskine and Milan Jurcina all have various attributes that could easily make them appealing to other NHL clubs. [ed note: I stand by that comment despite what some others might be saying about Erskine and Jurcina, at times.]
As far potential back fills for any required call ups in the ranks of forwards, once again the Caps could face the same situation, loosing a good player in the pipeline when they need to send him back down to Hershey. Even if say, Quintin Laing is recalled to back fill for Boyd Gordon, just because he cleared waivers at the start of the season, doesn't mean he would again. Such would be especially true, assuming he once again makes the best of the opportunity to shine again on the NHL stage, like he did last season. As for the current sharpshooters in Hershey who are lighting the red lights behind their AHL opponents goals with regularity lately, the likelihood of one of them getting picked up as they need to clear waivers is probably even higher. What does that all mean - it probably means that Caps' manager George McPhee and Coach Boudreau will make even more moves then they might otherwise shuttling some additional players back and forth between Giant Center and KCI then they might otherwise to make sure they don't subject some of those prospects to the risk of being claimed by others off the waiver wire.
So if any of us are lamenting the pressures and problems we have to deal with in our day jobs, we'd do well to appreciate the pressures and challenges that McPhee and Boudreau will be dealing with over the next 36 days. Add the fact that they have to do what they do under the glare of media and being routinely challenged by professional journalists, TV analysts and commentators and numerous bloggers and fans and if you're like me you're glad that you don't have their day jobs. Final thoughts: 1) as Capitals fans aren't you glad that from what we all could tell, by and large the Caps came into the start of the season in much better physical condition this year then last? Sure seems like they figured out they weren't going to "sneak up" on anybody this year and lots of teams would be gunning for them, especially on the road. And. 2) If you felt strongly that Bruce Boudreau deserved the jack Adams Trophy last season, what will you think if the Caps stay on track for 104+ points this season over the next 30 days?
Next up Division foe Atlanta Thrashers, tomorrow night at Verizon Center. I'll be driving to Myrtle Beach to spend the holiday with family for at least the first and probably second periods. But, I swear I'll be "Rockin' the Red" in my Caps Sweater while I do so.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Wow...that hurt, watching the Caps - Sharks game that was. That obvious statement out of the way, one has to ask why? Not a wailing "why? ... why? ... why?" but a simple, detached unemotional why?
For recaps of the game please wander over and take a look at "A View From The Cheap Seats", "Tarik's recaps and notes both in the online edition of the post and his blog "Capitals Insider" (note Tarik and I both get "D's" for unoriginal titles to our posts), Peerless has a nice view of the night's events, and to some extent last and least, the online edition of the Times . Since Corey Masesik, the usual Caps beat writer, didn't make the road trip, it's an AP syndicated article that includes the delicately turned line "Marc-Edourad Vlasic and Devin Setoguchi also added a goal and an assist as the Sharks found their legs in plenty of time to finish the Capitals, who haven't beaten San Jose this century". While none paint a great picture of the game if your a Washington Capital player, coach, management or fan, the AP Syndicated Article by Greg Beacham, an AP sportswriter who routinely covers the Sharks as part of his beat in the SF Bay Area, is very good, even though it really hurts to read if you're a Caps fan. That said, the Washington Times gets a D- for their coverage of the road trip so far, great to know they are looking to increase their subscription base by trying to leverage the DC area's increased interest in the Capitals and hockey. Ask yourself when was the last time the Times didn't send a sportswriter to a Redskins away game to cover it firsthand, let alone four in a row, to save money. Isn't the Times the conservative newspaper in DC, management must have forgotten that Sarah Palin is a "hockey mom". [ed note: Sorry for that rant, but with since I didn't think the Caps need me to get down on them after the last two games - enough of that going around - I figured I'd vent about something that has been bugging me that I truly do not understand.]
The last two games have not seen the Caps outshine their opponents in many, if any category. There have been a few occasional glimpses of what could have been and despite giving up 12 goals in the last two games, most agree, the primary issue has not been goaltending. Certainly as Caps Chick noted "It seemed like every Caps defensemen put the puck in their own net tonight, starting with Morrisonn’s own-goal and continuing on down the line with deflections galore." So what really has happened these past two games, well as Coach Boudreau said after last night's loss, as was reported by Tarik: "The biggest thing you need when you are down a few players," he said. "You need your best players to be your best players. And I didn't think our best players were our best players tonight." While last night that seemed to be focused on the top 3 or 4 forwards, another point is that the Caps only had one of their top three defenseman, Tom Poti, in the lineup last night and it showed. As the current league standings show, the Caps are a top 10 team. However, when they take on other members of the NHL's top echelon, they really need at least two of their top three defensemen: Mike Green, Tom Poti, and Brian Pothier (remember him) in the line-up. Also, as much is being made in the blogsphere about the coming of the savior that will be Karl Alzner, this writer doesn't share the view that he is the answer, at this time. There are not that many Drew Doughty caliber guys out there, guys who can step into the NHL and log 20 minutes or so as a 19 or 20 year old defenseman. Right now, Caps fans and management should take the "gift" that has been Tyler Sloan, a 27 year old salary cap friendly rookie who has been playing solid hockey and not looking "out of his league" in anyway, and be happy. As one might expect in last night's game, Tom Poti was the only Caps player to finish with a positive +/- rating at +1. The Sharks' on the other hand had only two players on the minus side, defensemen Douglas Murray and Christian Erhoff, at -1. In the 4:54 and 6 shifts he played before leaving the game with a recurrence of his ankle injury, Sergei Fedrov won 4 of the 5 faceoffs he contested. Brooks Laich also had a solid night in the faceoff circle winning 6 of 10. Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich led the Caps in hits, per the official stats, OV with 10 and Laich with 7. Though if Ovechkin had 10 actual hits, many could see them all, and several were ill timed.
What needs to be different? Coach Boudreau aid it during last night's pregame comments. The Caps need to tighten things up and play "Caps Hockey." To do that, when the puck is in their own end, they need the Defense to step up and push the play to the sideboards and keep the front of the net clear in a way that is legal in "the new NHL." Also, the forwards to step up and take control of the play in the neutral and/or opponents zone. Forechecking relentlessly, like they have when they've won this season and like they did at the end of last season. Finally, even though several of the 6 first shot goals have not been the Goaltenders "faults", they need Theodore and Johnson, to find a way, no matter what to stop the first 3-5 shots they face, every night. To do those things when they face the current other top 10 teams in the league, they need two top defensemen and with Pothier out on LTIR, that means between Poti, Green and ... wait for it ... Federov, the Caps need two of them in the game time roster and on their games.
Maybe this article could/should be called "Yet another reason/voice to trade Michael Nylander." Nylander has played better these past two games and after solid defense the next thing a team needs most for a deep playoff run is depth at center, but his current salary and style of play v. the Bruce Boudreau system make him the best option for trading for another solid defenseman and possibly freeing up some cap space. Nylander's recent play makes the thought of "dealing him" harder to fathom, especially when you consider his No Movement Clause, age and the other implication he has to whoever might pick him up under the current NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Also what moving Nylander this year means for the Capitals next season if Federov decides not to play another season, or the Caps decide they don't want him back because of something unforeseeable at this time is hard to forecast. However, assuming the Capitals keep wanting to play their current system, and why wouldn't they even with these two recent losses they are off to their best season start in a long, long time, if not ever, a strong center who plays more "North-South" than Nyls (read more like Federov) is what the Caps will probably really want. Oh well, let the trade rumours continue.
Here's this blogger's top 10 reasons the Caps and Caps fans should just shake these past two games off and look forward to tomorrow night's game on Versus between the Wild and the Caps.
10) Caps and Wild fans will get to hear how great Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are and highlights of their last five or six games from the Gary Bettman "We Love the Penguins PR Machine" at NHL Headquarters and the Versus Network, at least 10 times in the course of the game. Something we all love since we don't have any elite offensive players on our own favorite teams - NOT.
9) There will be 18,568 reasons why the Caps Players will want to win Xcel Energy Center tomorrow night. But hey, the "real" Minnesota NHL team plays in ... Dallas ... go figure.
8) The Wild are coming off a 2-1 home loss to the Saint Louis Blues last night and hey, if a team named "The Blues" can do it why can't "The Capitals". In other words at least unlike at LA or San Jose the Caps are NOT facing a team with four (4) days rest.
7) The Wild have a really "dweeby" a) Team Name and b) Team Logo; even weirder than the Capitals name or any of their logos, ever. So the Caps can win, and look and sound good doing it.
6) As noted by one of the Wild fan's blogs Minnesota Team Owner Craig Leopold and "Family Guy" Peter Griffen were indeed separated at birth. Since Cap's majority owner Ted Leonsis wasn't separated by birth from anything and the Wild are actually owned by a cartoon character, this game shouldn't be a problem for the Caps at all. Okay, maybe not true but hey this is a Caps centric blog.
5) Russia always beats Finland and Eastern Europe at the World Chess Championship, so too in Hockey. Or more succinctly for/from Caps fans, "Our Europeans are better than your Europeans, Wild... so just give up okay?"
4) Alexander Semin is projected as 50/50 to play the game, assuming he returns and the top line responds to the coach's exhortations after the last two games, against those teams who shall not be named any further in this post, respond the Caps should score at three and probably four goals, a total the Wild have seldom exceeded this season.
3) Mike Green is projected as a 60/40 to play the game, assuming he returns to the lineup, that's two of the Caps top three defenseman in the lineup.
2) After today's Hurricanes - Predators game, the Caps could be playing to regain first place in the Southeast Division - how's that for motivation.
1) Even after the past two road losses in Los Angeles and San Jose, if the Capitals win, they will have captured 5 of 10 possible standings points (0.500 hockey) during what could easily be viewed as their toughest road trip of the year. They will also still be 7-3-2 for November going into a 3 game Thanksgiving Holiday "extended weekend." As Coach Boudreau said, let's just get back to playing capitals hockey.
Well that about sums it all up for the Caps. I guess it was too much to ask for - a great win over Michigan State by Penn State to go to the Rose Bowl AND a Caps win against the Sharks in San Jose on the same day. For the Caps that was two bad games, and no good anniversary gift for Coach Bruce Boudreau last night. Lots of lessons learned, or reinforced, like good things happen to those who go to the net and shot the puck, even when it's the other team. Time to move on.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
A few other things to note...
1) This season so far the Caps are getting secondary scoring. Something the Caps will need to continue to do, if they are to win tonight. To date 16 Caps have scored 1 or more goals this season, and 12 Caps have two or more goals on the season.
2) Tyler Sloan has now played in 11 NHL games, one more than the current NHL CBA specifies so that he will need to clear waivers if he is to be sent back to Hershey. Given his salary cap friendly price and the numbers he's been posting, he may not see Hershey ever again, one way or the other. Personally, I hope he stays here in DC for the rest of the season. He has played very well for an undrafted rookie and has not made many rookie mistakes at all. His numbers are very solid, both from a defensive perspective and from a perspective of supporting the offense when needed.
3) To win tonight, the Caps have to come out ready to play and play both well and hard for all sixty minutes; Jose Theodore or Brent Johnson have to have a great night in the net; and the Caps defensemen have to do a better job of keeping the low slot clear by pushing the play to the boards. For the Sharks to win, they need to tie up the Capitals, not get frustrated by the relentless forecheck the Caps are capable of, and not buy all the hype associated with their new "BlackArmor", though that last one probably won't be too hard for them to accomplish.
4) Don't bet against Alexander Ovechkin breaking his "Never scored a goal against the Sharks" streak, even though the Kings kept that in tact on Thursday evening.
5) From a standings perspective, tonight's game is more important than Thursday night's was for the Caps. They are now just one point ahead of Carolina, the Caps have a game in hand. The Hurricanes are idle today but play the Nashville Predators tomorrow afternoon. We've already pointed out the Caps are playing the team with the best record in the NHL tonight. The Predators are basically playing 0.500 hockey and won't be pushovers for the 'Canes, especially if Preds' goalie Dan Ellis has a good game, but it's not hard to see Carolina walking away from that game with two more points either.
6) I made my friend Pat's son very happy last week. Pat is a Shark's STH, he came to the VC for last year's Caps - Sharks matchup and invited me out to the game. For a lot of reasons both personal and professional commitments made the possibility of me going a "no-go." Pat's son is ecstatic as he now gets a chance to see Alexander Ovechkin play. All I can say is it's too bad it looks like he won't also get to see Alexander Semin play too, and I hope he enjoys the game but that his father doesn't finish the night in too good a mood, since I'm hoping at the end of the night BlackArmor is 0-1-0 and the Sharks have their first home loss in regulation this season. Let's all hope the Caps team gets together, decides to win this one as an "anniversary gift" to Coach Boudreau, and just plays phenomenal hockey "ALL NIGHT LONG". Cmon guys "You Can Do It!"
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Now, the Caps will play their second game in as many days in Southern California this evening. Tonight, they will take on the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. The Kings finished last season with the second worst record in the league. Like Tampa Bay they only captured 71 points however they had 32 wins to Tampa Bay's 31. While this year is another rebuilding year for LA, they are on track to finish the season with at least 10 more points then last year and they have the core of a good young team forming. Think the Washington Capitals two seasons ago. They cannot be taken lightly. In 17 games so far this season they've beaten Anaheim once, Carolina once, Saint Louis twice, Dallas twice, and they took Detroit to overtime. Overall their record is 7-8-2 and while they are a year or two and a couple of players away from where the Capitals are currently in terms of franchise development, they will give the Caps a "solid run for their money" and could win this one if the Caps let up at all. So how do the match-ups look?
Let's assume it's Green/Schultz vs. O'Donnell/Doughty; though as noted by Tarik; Green was wearing a shoulder sling last night after the Ducks game. Rookie Drew Doughty is on track to have a super season and could be part of the discussion for the Calder but even at his current pace he isn't on track to have 1/4 of Mike Green's production, "Game Over" is on track for 28 goals and 38 Assists, and is currently +11. Jeff Schultz finished last season with 72 GP, 5 goals, 13 assists and +12. He is currently +5 and on track for 28 assists. Sean O'Donnell is in his 13th NHL season, last year in Anaheim he played 82 games, had 2 goals, 7 assists and was +9. This year O'Donnell is on track for 19 assists and is currently +3. This match up goes to the Capitals, but for it to go the way of the stats Schultz has to stand up more physically to the Kings' bigger forwards. This game could be a good night to give Tom Poti some rest so let's assume this match up is Morrisonn/Sloan vs. Quincy/Greene. Assuming Shaone Morrisonn is recovered and gets back to form, no one else in this foursome has the consistency that he showed for solid +/- performance on the other side's pairing. That said even as good as Tyler Sloan has been with his production of 1 goal and 1 assist in 8GP; no one else in this group is even close to on pace with Kyle Quincey with the ability to chip in on the offense. Quincey is on pace for 11 goals and 33 assists. Matt Greene appears to be a solid, stay at home defenseman in the making; however, he is the reason the Caps might have the ability to give Poti a night off. Give a slight edge in this match-up to the Kings if Coach Boudreau give Tom Poti a needed night off; though these pairings are probably all wrong and Poti will play and Green will sit out the Kings game. Erskine-Jurcina vs. Gauthier/Preissing: Since coming to LA from Ottawa as an UFA after the 2006-2007 season, Tom Preissing has not approached the form that made him a 7 goal, 31 assist, +40 performer as a Senator. Though he has 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 games, he is -7 to date, and 5 of his 6 points to date are on the Power Play. The oft maligned Milan Jurcina with one goal and -3 in 13 games to date compares fairly well to Preissing at a salary of ~$1.9M less. Thirty two (32) year old Denis Gauthier is in his 9th NHL season. Last year he played the entire season in the AHL for the Philadelphia Phantoms. His last "full" NHL season was 2006-2007 when he played 43 games for the Flyers, that year he had 4 assists and was -11. So far this season he has played 17 games, has 1 assist and is -7. Twenty eight (28) year old John Erskine is arguably having the best season of his career so far this year. Erskine, who played 51 games last year for the Caps and had 2 goals, 7 assists and was +1, is on track to play 80 games this year. He currently has 2 assists and is +3 in 15 games and looks stronger with each passing night. Advantage on this pairing goes clearly to the Capitals. Overall the defensive pairings comparison goes to the Capitals.
Goaltending: The Kings have 26 year old Swede Erik Ersberg who has played 9 games so far this season is 4-3-1 and has a GAA of 1.96 and a SV% of 0.910 and 28 year old Jason LaBarbera who is 3-5-1 in 10 games played with a GAA of 3.o1 and a SV% of 0.884. Based on last night's results and starter the Caps are likely to start Brent Johnson; though Jose Theodore played well. My guess is that Theodore will p;ay against the San Jose Sharks later this week unless Johnnie has a great game, like a shut out Slight edge in the goaltending category to the Capitals.
Intangibles go to the Kings as the Capitals are on a long road trip and played last night, where as the Kings are coming off three days rest and will be playing in front of a home ice crowd.
Overall prediction: Caps 4, Kings 2 in regulation.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tonight's match-ups pose some interesting challenges for the Caps. As of yesterday, it appeared Alexander Semin, though he is on this Western Conference road trip, will probably not play tonight. Further it's unclear as to who will play and who will sit on the Defense, as during Morrisonn's injury, Tyler Sloan certainly played well enough to justify consideration for a spot in a "rotation" and he has made the road trip. Also will Sergei Federov play tonight or wait until tomorrow night to return to the line-up? If Federov plays who will be the healthy scratch? After yesterday's practice, per Corey Masisak of the Washington Times, Coach Bruce Boudreau indicated Semin as doubtful, Federov as questionable, and Morrisonn as a game-time decision for tonight. Corey also indicated that the Coach had selected a goalie for tonight but that he didn't elaborate or share his decision with the Times Hockey Beat writer. Perhaps if the Times sprung to have their main hockey writer travel with the team for what could be the most important major road rip of the year with the team, the Caps coach might talk a little more to them and the readership might be a little better informed. Thankfully the Washington Post is sending their hockey beat writer to the West Coast today and he'll actually report some details from today's practice. Per Tarik El-Bashir, the Post's hockey writer, the lines and pairings in yesterdays practice at Honda Center were listed as:
Per Tarik those lines would change if Federov plays. My assumption based on those pairings and his performance in New Jersey, if Federov plays the healthy scratch is Nylander. Of course if the Caps are shopping Nyls on this road trip, I'll be wrong and the healthy scratch will likely be Gordon. Even if Nyls is the scratch will Laich or Feds be be second line pivot? Who knows, let's all just be glad the Capitals have this sort of depth and so many guys are turning things up a notch right now as far as the forward lines goal. What this means is that the Caps have lit the "red light" a total of 56 times in the 17 games (3.29 G/game) they've played so far this season, including 20 goals in the last 5 games (4.0 G/game). The Ducks have scored a total of 57 goals in 19 games so far this season (3.0 G/game), but only 13 in the last five games (2.60 G/game). However, the Caps are likely to be without their leading goal scorer, Alexander Semin, so they will again need a solid game from everyone on the forward lines like they got during the two games against New Jersey on Friday and Saturday. As for the comparisons, well right now the leading scorers for Anaheim are Center Ryan Gretzlef with 7 goals, 15 assists, 22 points, Right Wing Corey Perry with 6 goals, 14 assists 20 points, and Right Wing Teemu Selanne with 9 goals, 9 assists and 18 points. After that the scoring drops back to defenseman Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin who each have 4 goals. However if the Ducks can shut down the Caps, the Caps might have trouble keeping them below 3 goals simply because their offense is so balanced. In any case when you look at the forward lines, even with Nylander in a slump and Semin and Federov out, the advantage in this area of the game goes to the Caps.
No details on the Defense pairings other than if Morrisonn plays, the pairings will change from what we've been seeing; whatever that means. Personally I hope that means Tyler Sloan plays. It could also mean that Tom Poti gets some rest, there were some reports that he played the last Saturday's game in New Jersey with bronchitis. If Poti and Morrisonn are both once again healthy my hope for the pairings tonight are:
Green - Schultz
Poti - Sloan
Morrisonn - Erskine.
If Poti needs the rest and Morrisonn is ready then I'm for:
Green - Schultz
Morrisonn - Sloan
Erskine - Jurcina.
as Defensive Pairs. I have a lot of faith in Sloan after watching him the past two games where he logged over 21:00 TOI in both games. He looked very solid in New Jersey, and the Devils are a similar team to Anaheim, though more physical. That said whoever the Caps put out on Defense will matchup against the Ducks' pairings of:
Pronger - Hedican
Niedermayer - Festerling
Huskins - Montador.
Looking at the paring matchups and assuming the first pairing for the Caps is Green - Schultz things shape up like this. Green/Schultz have a combined +/- of +16, though you need to temper that with Schultz's mediocre Corsi rating. Pronger/Hedican have a combined +/- of +4. Green/Schultz a combined 6 goals, 12 assists. Pronger/Hedican 5 goals, 10 assists. Green/Schultz a total of 18 PIM (1:03 per game) ; Pronger/Hedican 28 PIM (1:28). Give this matchup to the Caps if Green AND Schultz bring their "A" games and only if Green looks before he rushes and Schultz plays more physically than he has in the last two entire seasons. The next pairing comparisonn has to be Poti-Sloan or Morrisonn vs. Niedermayer - Festerling or McIver. Okay breaking it down Poti vs Niedermayer; what can you say Poti is having a good year but is probably a little slowed right now getting over bronchitis and Niedermayer is the better player even though right now Poti is +/- +5 and Niedermayer is -2. Both have 2 goals. If the other guy for the Capitals is Morrisonn give them a slight edge for experience over either McIver or Festerling. If it's Sloan call the match-up a draw though I like Sloan in the matchup since he's +/- +2 and has a goal and an assist in 9 games and only 2 PIM. Comparing him statistically to either Festerling (1 Game played so far and NO STATISTICS) or McIver (10 Games Played, +1, 1 assist and 21 PIM) you'd have to like the 27 year old undrafted rookie from Calgary. Call this matchup a draw if Poti is healthy and plays well but otherwise give a slight edge to the Ducks. Call the next matchup Erskine/Jurcina vs. Huskins/Montador and here's how it looks. Erskine/Jurcina are currently a combined +/- 0 while Huskins/Montador are a combined +11; additionally Huskins finished last season playing 76 regular season games with 4 goals 15 assists and was +23. Montador played 73 games last season for the Florida Panthers and had 8 goals and 15 assists and was +1 for the year. In the 2007-2008 regular season, Erskine played 51 regular season games, had 2 goals, 7 assists and was +1; Jurcina played 75 games, had 1 goal and 8 assists and was +4 for the year. This pairing matchup goes decidedly to the Ducks. Overall give the Defensive matchups to the Ducks.
Goaltending matchups: Ducks: Jean-Sebastian Giguere - on the season 15 games played, GAA 3.12; save percentage = 0.90. Last 3 games GAA=4.51; Save percentage = 0.851. Jonas Hiller - on the season 6 games played, GAA 2.18; Save Percentage = 0.92. Last 2 games GAA= 0.62, save percentage = 0.976. Capitals: either Jose Theodore or Brent Johnson. Theodore on the season so far: 11 games played, GAA=3.11, SV%0.890; last 3 games GAA=2.20, SV%=0.924. Johnson on the season: 8 games played, GAA=2.20, SV%=0.906; last 3 games GAA=1.72, SV%=0.949. Theodore will probably get the start for the Caps given his familiarity with the Ducks and his career record of a SV% of 0.917 and a GAA of 2.72 in 10 games, AND his solid play the past three games. Even if, the hot rookie, Hiller is in goal for the Ducks, this category goes to the Capitals regardless of which of their two hot goaltenders are in the net.
Intangibles: Slight edge to Anaheim. The Caps have been off for three days and skating in Anaheim since yesterday. They are 5-1-2 so far in November. However, they are still pretty "dinged up." The Ducks will be playing at home and are 4-2-1 so far in November but 1-2-1 in their last 4. They shutout the LA Kings last game in front of a good crowd, and will likely draw 17,000+ fans to tonight's game. Assuming rookie Jonas Hiller is in goal for the Ducks, the crowd should be firmly behind their team and that will give them a little more spring in their step, as will facing the #1 and #2 NHL Stars of the Week.
Expect a physical game but if it starts to open up and be faster pace the Caps advantages up front and with the skating ability of the first D pairing give them more of an edge. Prognostication: Caps 3, Ducks 2 in regulation.
For my part, I'll be Rockin' the Red and watching the game in my den in Bristow, VA.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
What does this all mean to NHL teams right now, in mid-November? It sounds cliche but as the saying goes, each point won now, especially points earned on the road could be worth 1 1/2 points in late March and early April. Why do we always hear things like that? Basically because they are true. It might be hard for Caps fans to relate after last years amazing finish to the regular season. But it's true and that's what makes the Washington Capitals run last March and April even more amazing. However, it's far better to start off well, like the Capitals have done so far this season and keep up a solid pace, than to face a do or die every game from February 1st until the end of the season. By doing so, you give your coaching staff options. Options like not having to cross your fingers and ask a 38 year old future hall of fame center come back early and play hurt. Or options like keeping a young, solid journeyman who is surprising everyone an emerging as a top 4 defenseman after toiling in the minors for seven years so you can give one of your other minute munching defenseman, a 31 year old top flight guy, who recently logged over 24:00 TOI on 36 shifts in a Shootout Loss, a little time to get over bronchitis. These options only come with continued solid play by the entire team in all facets of the game. They come because one aspect, such as goaltending, solid goaltending by both players on the roster, sometimes to the surprise of those around the league who picked this aspect of the game as the likely Caps weak spot; makes up for a dinged up and currently depleted blue line corps, or for a slow starting group of richly talented forwards and allows your team to start off the seasons first five weeks with a 10-4-3 record.
To date the Caps have captured 23 of 34 (or 0.676) available points. That alone projects as a 110 point season. Last year, the Montreal Canadeans had the best record in the Eastern Conference with 104 points and the only team with more than 110 points were the President's Trophy/Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings with 115 points. Think about this one, while it is highly unlikely the Capitals can keep up their recent 7-1-2 pace, if they did they would finish the season with, are you ready for this, 127 points. There, now if you are a Caps fan, you know how the Ottawa Senator fans felt this time last year. The morale of that story - don't get too cocky; the Senators finished the 2007-2008 season in 7th place in the Eastern Conference with 94 points and were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The logical conclusions from these analyses and projections:
1) It's unlikely that the top 4 or 5 teams in either division will keep up the pace they are on but it's also likely that winning a division in this year's NHL will take at least 104 or 106 or even more points, no matter which division you are looking at.
2) The top teams in both conferences are all playing very, very well right now as each conference has at least 5 teams on pace to reach 100+ points. (Last season only a total of 5 teams reached that mark; this season twice as many are on track to do it.)
3) Coach Bruce Boudreau is probably smart to already be looking for opportunities to rest various players, especially those other than the "young guns" - Nylander, Poti, Federov, Kozlov, Bradley, Brashear, and Clark; and to build some confidence in the second tier group of defenseman: John Erskine, Milan Jurcina, Tyler Sloan and to a much lesser degree Jeff Schultz and Shoane Morrisonn, now so the entire team will be available, in fairly decent shape and ready for a real playoff run this spring. He'll be looking for these opportunities while working hard to keep the Caps sharp and on or above their 0.650+ pace.
4) Goaltending coach Dave Prior will be working hard to make sure both Caps goalies #1 Jose Theodore, and recent #1b Brent Johnson are both played enough to stay sharp, happy and ready for anything that comes their way the rest of the regular season and, hopefully the playoffs. Coach Prior might end up with the toughest job on the team, for all the right reasons; if Theodore and Johnson keep playing with the verve and skill they have exhibited during the first 17 games of this season.
5) General Manager George McPhee has to be looking at his options and thinking about how he might use some of the flexibility the continuing maturation of so many "home grown" talents gives him to make some salary cap room so he has some real options and flexibility again at the trade deadline. He'll be wanting that flexibility so he can use it to once again pick up some help for the final stretch run and the playoffs; since everyone knows you can't anticipate exactly what a team will need then but you know it will be something. Rumors of late have been circulating about Michael Nylander, moving Nylander has several complicating factors: a) he hasn't been playing to his potential in the last 6 or so games; b) he comes with a $5+M cap hit; c) he is 36 years old - 1 year over that 35 year old mark in the NHL CBA; and d) he has a "No Movement Clause" in his contract so he can "pick his spots." Another mitigating factor is that when he is "on his game" Nylander is very good. Nyls started the season "on his game" but then cooled off. He over stickhandles at times and his reaction to being told to play more North-South hockey sure seems like it has driven him to take more low percentage shots. After not having seen him take a slapshot in the past two seasons; Caps fans have seen him take one or more in each of his last three games played - from low percentage angles without having a man in position to get a rebound. While this type of action is bad enough from a young defenseman with a blistering slapshot and mediocre stickhandling skills; it's inexplicable from one of the better stickhandling centers in the league who makes five times as much. This has to be only one of several things that Coach Boudreau and GMGM are looking at. Right now the Washington Capitals only have just under $670K of salary cap room; you have to believe that GMGM sure would like to free up at least $1 - $2 million more before the winter meetings are over so he has some "maneuvering room" when the trade deadline approaches.
6) It's a great year and time to be a hockey fan, especially a hockey fan in the DC Metro. Everyone should come out and "Rock the Red" at least once or twice this year since the Capitals are not only playing very, very well; they are indeed the most exciting team to watch in the NHL.
Next Up the Anaheim Ducks, Wednesday 11/19 in Anaheim, CA.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!