Monday, November 30, 2009

Caps Earn A Potentially Expensive Two Points In Raleigh Tonight

It was a two point night on the road for the Capitals in Raleigh, NC tonight. With Jose Theodore returning to the nets and stopping 38 of 40 shots (SV% - 0.950) and Caps Center Nicklas Backstrom having a 2 goal/3 point night it should have ended in an outright celebration. However, the post game interviews and discussion were subdued, any desire to celebrate was tempered with the uncertainty surrounding the status of Caps scoring ace Alexander Ovechkin both from an injury and suspension perspective. War is indeed hell.

During the first period of tonight's game Ovechkin ended up with a 5 minute kneeing major when he apparently tried to line up Hurricane Defenseman Tim Gleason in response to a big hit on line mate Backstrom that ended badly for both when they ended up with a knee on knee hit, both men on the ice and Ovechkin with a 5 minute major penalty and game misconduct - his second major in three games. Gleason returned to the game after missing a couple of shifts but even if Ovechkin hadn't gotten a game misconduct he was done for the night, the Caps have said OV will get an MRI tomorrow back here in DC and after that they will issue a statement on his physical status. The Caps responded and killed off Ovechkin's 5 minute major to once again exert their dominance over the struggling Hurricanes.

As if to make my point, from earlier today, about the reactionary nature the DC Metro sports press and MSM some are already predicting gloom and doom and a lengthy recovery period. On both counts I feel these are things that must be kept in perspective and may well not be inevitable at all. To be sure the hit looked pretty tough and OV took the worst of it. Throughout the game both before and after the hit Gleason was on a mission as well, the lack of credible repercussions and retaliation in the game today is definitely a problem. I'm not making excuses for OV, but look at the hit, Gleason had the puck, the hit wasn't late, he turns and goes low to avoid the hit and Ovechkin follows through to finish his check but catches Gleason's knee. Later in the third period Gleason and Tyler Sloan got into it as well.

Ovechkin's 5 minute The Caps, the Hurricanes and the Referees sure seemed to let this game get a little out of hand in the third period. The third period both teams took a tremendous amount of penalties. The Caps took a total of 7 minors, one 5 minute major and a game misconduct throughout the game including 4 minor penalties in the third period alone. The Hurricanes took a total of 6 minors and a 10 minute misconduct including 3 minors in the second and 3 minors in the third period. There really was no reason for the Caps not to play more disciplined hockey in the third period and for the Hurricane's to play more disciplined hockey all night long. The Hurricanes out shot the Caps in both the first and second period 28 - 17. However during the third period the Caps out shot the Hurricanes 16 - 12. The three stars of the game were 1) Nicklas Backstrom (2 Goals, 1 Assist, +2, 22:05 TOI, 12 of 23/53% in the faceoff circle, 1 takeaway); 2) Jose Theodore (38 Saves on 40 shots SV% 0.950); and 3) Eric Fehr (1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 13:44 TOI, 2 hits, 1 takeaway).

Keeping Things In Perspective...

Keeping things in perspective is very important, whether it's David Steckel's current goalless stretch or the on-going battle for truth, justice and standings points in the current NHL regular season. I've lived a lot of places in these here United States during my almost 50 years and I've got to say no place I've lived is more reactionary to "emotional mood swings during a season in terms of reactions to their local sports teams and players than the DC Metro. Just today I was talking to someone here in the ICx Corporate office about how when I moved to the DC Metro, my boss's assistant would truly be depressed on a Monday following a Redskin's loss and that amazed me. I mean as far as the NFL goes I've been an Eagles fan my whole life and trust me there were some really lean years for long stretches there - I mean if I was depressed over Eagle game losses there were years upon years when the best we could muster was 8-8. As for MLB and the Phillies, yeah, it's a lot of fun now, but as Billy Crystal would say - "DON"T GET ME STTAARRRT -EED." In any case like the last commenter to this thread says, emailing a team's owner during the middle of a game is just down-right silly. Professional Sports is Entertainment, if it doesn't provide you with enjoyment and diversion from life's real problems then I really think you should find a different hobby ... and as regular readers know I'm as rabid about my sports teams, especially our Washington Capitals as virtually anyone. Though I must admit I don't see myself and Mrs. Mark celebrating our upcoming 25th anniversary by renewing our vows on at Center Ice of Verizon Center - Mrs. Mark just don't play that tune, know what I mean. So folks, as we get ready to tune in to the Caps - Hurricane's game tonight, let's all just keep it in perspective.

Here's a little perspective for you, the NHL Power Rankings for Week 9 were posted over at Red Light District Hockey Blog, despite injuries and some struggles if you are a Washington Capitals fan, "your" team is ranked 6th, up from 7th last week; and don't forget those ranking take into account injured and LTIR players. I did my own rankings based on percentage of points captured vs. points available to date and the Caps came out 5th. Those rankings and their percentage results through the end of last night's games for the top 9 teams in each division are: 1) New Jersey (0.729) 2) San Jose (0.714); 3) Chicago (0.700); 4) Calgary (0.700) 5) WASHINGTON (0.692); 6) Pittsburgh (0.666); 7) Buffalo (0.652); 8) Atlanta (0.630); 9) Ottawa (0.625); 10) Nashville (0.620); 11) Colorado (0.611); 12) Dallas (0.596); 13) Boston (0.594); 14) Los Angeles (0.593); 15) Tampa Bay (0.583); 16) Phoenix (0.574); 17) Philadelphia (0.563); 18) Detroit (0.560). Simple extrapolation for the Caps so far to the end of the season: 0.692 * 164 = 113.4 points - Folks look at that again and realize that last season the San Jose Sharks won the President's Trophy with a total of 117 points and the Boston Bruins won the Eastern Conference with 116 points. Please get a grip, as I've said I know there's a lot to be worried about, but there is also a lot to like about this team. Contrast the things that frustrate you like loosing a two goal lead against Montreal, against the things you should like, such as the never say die, fight to then comeback to tie and then win the Montreal game in the gimmick. If you must start thinking about April things here in the weeks while some focus on those last shopping days before Christmas, ask yourself if the game against Montreal had been a playoff game and gone to a 20 minute 5 on 5 OT period vs the 4 on 4 5 minute OT period who's performance did you like better then the Caps or the Habs? Then if you're still upset, grab a cold one from your fridge return to your seat and like Frankie Goes To Hollywood said - Relax.

On the David Steckel goal scoring slump, again everyone needs to keep it in perspective. Like Ted Leonsis indicates in his blog and Tariq El Bashir does in today's WaPo, Steckel means a lot more to this team then scoring goals. His numbers in the Facdeoff Circle as well as his penalty killing skills mean he''s an important member of the team and hockey is a team sport to be sure. Yes it's frustrating for all of us who like and root for Steckel to see the seeming total lack of any bounce going his way, but fear not, he's getting chances at games I've watched this season alone he's hit the post at least 5 times, and as long as he keeps doing that two things are going to happen, the first already is - the opposition can't score when they don't have the puck and it's being shot towards their net; and the second is those pucks will start to bounce his way and he'll be scoring. In the meantime, once again put on Frankie and Relax.

Okay bey the clock on my PC it's 10 minutes to game time and I want to go see: 1) Jose Theodore get his first shut out of year; 2) Steckel and Ovechkin both have multiple goal nights; and 3) Backstrom dominate the faceoff circle and take every draw from Brind'Amour. My father gave me lots of good advice before he passed away, one piece of it was "Mark, if you are going to dream, dream big. It doesn't cost any more."

Okay now lets all Relax, Rock the Red and use that Zen Master stuff and think:


Looking Ahead to Tonight's Caps Game Against Fellow SE Division Foe - Carolina Hurricanes

Tonight the Caps travel to Raleigh, NC to take on the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Arena. The Caps come into the game fighting a plague of injuries through the month of November with a 7-3-3 record for the month. The Hurricanes come into the game fighting a plague of injuries and other issues with a 3-9-2 record for the month.

The biggest challenge for the Caps tonight will be staying disciplined and playing their game, the entire 60 minutes of the game. If the Caps play like they played against Buffalo on last Wednesday or the first period and the last five minutes of the third period and OT against Montreal on Saturday, the Hurricanes and their fans won't be too happy all night long. However this is the NHL and as was noted it's never easy, just last season virtually this same Hurricanes team took a run deep into the playoffs, and they are getting pretty desperate for a win. It would be ill-conceived to take this or any other game lightly. The Caps need to stay focused and on their game plan tonight, if they do, they should have a really good game. If however, they waiver or loose focus Carolina could make them pay for those lapses just as much as Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal or any other team in the league can. Here's to hoping OV, Backstrom, and the rest of the skaters have good nights and whoever gets the nod in goal tonight stays focused and on their game all night long.

Prediction: Caps 6 - Hurricanes 3.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 3 of the 4 Day Weekend ... Recap of Caps - Montreal & Other Big News...

So far this weekend apparently the biggest news in the world is that there was an accident in Central Florida where the driver wrecked his SUV in Florida in an accident that did not involve any other vehicles but took place late at night but the Police Report says Alcohol was not involved, however no one is really sure why the car crash occurred or why the driver was going out at 2:30 in the morning, oh yeah and the driver of the vehicle was Tiger Woods. I mention it in case your local news didn't cover it and you didn't listen to CNN or any other news channels at all any time in the last 48 hours. My view is get a grip people, this isn't news, and who cares why he was going out at 2:30 AM - perhaps as the father of two young children he needed to take a run to the 24 hour Toys - R - Us or 7-11 for more disposable diapers or some such thing, or for whatever reason he wanted to go out for some air, who cares? I mean I turn on the TV to get some news and what do I get? News of the latest act of piracy off Somalia? News of anything to do with the numerous ongoing conflicts, droughts, famine or strife in the world? Scores of the more notable sports rivalries being contested this weekend? No, we get numerous reports that say the same non-news relative to Tiger wrecking his SUV. Give the guy and his family some privacy already, and use the bandwidth to pass on real news. Of course why focus on hard news like how many vessel crews are being held hostage in Somalia, or how many of our nations military are being shot at, or what the root causes and data are behind the continued world economic sluggishness, if you are CNN, when you can talk about a minor traffic accident involving a big celebrity? Rant over back to my other musings.

Well the Caps are once again atop the NHL's Eastern Conference after last night's Shoot Out win over the Montreal Canadiens, by virtue of their 36 points and game in hand on the Pittsburgh "Flightless Birds." In fact the Caps have the second most points in the NHL (36) just two fewer points than the San Jose Sharks who currently lead the league with 38. Using simple extrapolation the Capitals are on track for 112 points this season. Further Caps Star Alexander Ovechkin is on track to score 56 goals and 95+ points again this season. All is right with the world, except of course the large number of Caps who are "dinged up" right now, the lingering "Michael Nylander" situation, the continued issues with "closing out a win" and staying out of the penalty box in the third period. However all that doesn't really matter ... as several Caps including Eric Fehr, Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Semyon Varlamov made up their minds they were going to do whatever it took to come home from Montreal with Two Points.

The post game quote of the night has to be Nicklas Backstrom's comment: "The NHL is not easy." You gotta love the simplicity and accuracy of that statement.

Semyon Varlamov's SV% last night 21 of 24 for 0.875 wasn't close to his best statistical performance of the season, but with the Caps down 3-2 in the third he came up big several times as Montreal tried valiantly to put the game away, and on the shootout he showed his skill, athleticism and flexibility on all three Canadien attempts. The fact he did it in front of Russia's Olympic Coach, former CCCP goaltender great Vladislav Tretiak, couldn't have hurt the 21 year old rookie's chances of making the Russian Olympic team and going to Vancouver in February. Oh and Varlamov finished the night with the following interesting statistic - his regular season record is now 10-1-2, though he may be ready for a one game rest when they face the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center in Raleigh tomorrow night as he has now played the last four games in a row though he will have a day's rest today and the Caps have Tuesday and Wednesday off this week as well.

Eric Fehr on his game, in the paint, is money, plain and simple - 'nuff said. With Fehr in that role and performing, when you add Chris Clark, Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, as well as occassionally Nicklas Backstrom, Brendan Morrison, Alexander Ovechkin and Tomas Fleischmann driving the net this year's edition of the Capitals is something akin to "Lions Storming The Gate" compared to recent season's past. And it all shows as of this morning the Caps have 7 players: Ovechkin, Semin, Laich, B-Mo, Flash, Fehr and Knuble on pace for 20 goal seasons. To date, twenty different guys wearing Capital sweaters have scored NHL goals this season and for much of the past two months we here in the blogsphere haven't felt the need to discuss a need for more "secondary scoring." This is a maturing, if not mature team clearly poised to take a run deep into the playoffs as long as they don't get "too cute."

Sure there's plenty to continue to worry about relative to the Caps but keeping things in perspective after last night's victory against the Canadiens the Caps again awoke to find themselves atop the Eastern Conference. Now as the San Jose Sharks have shown us all in recent past seasons, winning your conference in the regular season doesn't guarantee or portend much of anything with regard to playoff success but finding whatever you need to within yourselves to still win when maybe you shouldn't - that's something else...

Next up SE Division Rivals Carolina in Raleigh tomorrow night ...


Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Two Point Night For The Caps In Montreal ...

Well the Caps raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first period before Montreal chipped away in the second and third period to take a 3-2 lead. The Caps ran into their "old friend" third period penalty trouble and that made putting this game away virtually impossible. Thankfully, the Canadiens also had an issue with penalties in the final minute and that gave the Caps a chance to tie it up on Eric Fehr's second goal of the night. Overtime ended with the score still tied and then we had the skills competition. Semyon Varlamov played excellently all night and was invincible in the shootout stopping all three of the Canadiens shooters. Cary Price also stopped the Caps first two shooters before yielding the game winner to Nicklas Backstrom. I'll have more as well as a few other musings in the morning, there are just too many other sports things to watch and think about tonight what with the numerous College Football rivalries to cogitate upon and several more games available on NHL Center Ice.

The first period tonight was pretty darn well played by the Caps the rest of the game "not so much" but hey two points look like two points in April even if they were a little ugly in November.


If Every Game In The NHL Were Worth Three Points Week 9

I'm planning/trying to compile and post what the standings would look like if every game in the NHL were worth three points once a week. To review in my alternate NHL universe every game is worth three points: a win in regulation gets the winner 3 points, a win in overtime/SO gets the winner 2 points, an overtime /SO loss earns one point, and a regulation loss is worth zero points here in my alternate universe. If that's how the NHL operated the standings as of the start of today's games the standings would look like this:

Eastern Conference:
Western Conference:

If you compare these standings with the current official NHL standings once again you can see a difference that is substantive in both Conferences. In the East, the Devils would be the first place team while the Caps and Senators would be second and third, while Pittsburgh would be knotted with the Devils in their division and loose the tie-breaker by virtue of less regulation wins, so those would be subtle but significant differences. Likewise in the 5th through 10th spots there would be significant differences most notably the rangers would be in 5th vs. 10th by virtue of the "extra points they'd have due to their 11 regulation victories. Atlanta would be in 6th vice 7th for the same reason. Buffalo would be in 7th place vice 6th. In both systems the Flyers would be in 8th place, though instead of being in a points tie with 9th place Tampa Bay they would be one point ahead of 9th place Boston. So clearly these "extra points" and the award of the same number of points for every game - 3 would matter a lot in the Eastern Conference.

Likewise in the Western Conference things would matter though more subtly. In the West, the teams, placings and points separation of the 6th through 11th place teams would be materially affected at this juncture.

This shouldn't be surprising to any one since as of today slightly over 26% of the games played in the NHL Regular season have gone into either Overtime or been decided in a Shoot Out. The only thing that doesn't make sense about this situation is how any right thinking person can think it's logical for a team winning in regulation to get the same amount of points as a team winning in overtime or via a skills competition/gimmick.

Caps vs. Canadeans Tonight at Le Centre Bell ... A Lookahead and A Review of the Season To Date

Tonight in Montreal the Capitals (aka the Red, White and Blue) take on Les Candeans (Le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge) in the second of four regular season games and the Caps first visit to Montreal this season. The two teams met just eight days ago in DC with the Canadeans handing the Caps a 3-2 Loss at home in Verizon Center; how's that for motivation, Caps fans?

The story of tonight's game is both teams are coming into it pretty banged up. The Caps still have 6 players from the opening night roster who are doubtful, and they are still carrying Michael Nylander on the payroll. The Caps injury list currently reads as follows per Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post: 1) Alexander Semin, 2) Tom Poti, 3) Mike Knuble, 4) Shoane Morrisonn, 5) Boyd Gordon, and 6) Quintin Laing (over $8M of Salary Cap though with the rules and various people on LTIR the Caps are working quite hard to stay under the Cap). Add to the above Michael Nylander ($5.5M of salary, $4.875M of Cap hit) who isn't playing because the Caps are trying to deal him and Tyler Sloan who has returned to Calgary due the death of a close family member and you have eight players who were either potential opening night or were on the opening night roster out just 8 weeks into the season. Thankfully for us Washington fans, the Capitals are quite deep as has been noted around the league and despite the injuries that have plagued them most of this month, they are still 6-3-3 (0.625) for November.

The Habs have their share of players out as well. The injured or suspended Canadeans who won't be playing in tonight's contest consist of: Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez (possible return to the lineup tonight), Matt D'Agostini, Georges Laroque (suspended), Andrei Markov, BenoƮt Pouliot (recent pickup from Minnesota, possible but has yet to play a game for Montreal), Andrei Kostitsin (skating but listed as unlikely) and Jaroslav Spacek (who may return to the lineup tonight). In fact per Habs Inside Out, Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin has said he will use seven defencemen and 11 forwards because of the lack of healthy bodies.

This season so far for the Capitals has been a little up and down. The Caps opened the season with an 8-2-3 record and 19 points in October (0.731) and so far for November they are 6-3-3 (0.625). That's 14-5-6 on the season for 34 points and technically they lead the Eastern Conference though Pittsburgh also has 34 points, since the Caps have a game in hand on the Penguins. For the season the Caps are playing 0.680 hockey, that's on pace for a 111 point season, and even their more recent pace of 0.625 is on pace for 103 points. In their last game against the Sabres the Caps showed that even with this spate of injuries if they play disciplined hockey and within the abilities of the players available on the ice, on any given night, they can skate with and beat any other team in the NHL. As the injuries heal the results should also improve. However, as we've all seen as well this season, there are no "gimme" games in the new, improved, salary capped NHL. It continues to be a good season to be a Capitals fan but boy wouldn't $4.875M of salary cap space be nice if the Capitals can find a way to get it before the trade deadline, heck if he continues to play like he did against the Sabres, even keeping enough Cap Space to keep Karl Alzner up here in DC would be pretty nice too...

The rumour is that Semyon Valramov will again get the nod and start tonight, Varly has been quite hot lately and of course notched his first NHL shutout last game against the Sabres. It's also likely that Carey Price will again be in the nets for Montreal tonight, Price has been hot of late though he did apparently look human in the Hab's last game, a loss at Pittsburgh. The last time these two teams met, the Habs did a good job of keeping Alexander Ovechkin bottled up, expect Canadeans coach Jaques Martin to use the home ice advantage of last change to again do the same. However, I also expect the Capitals to play a more disciplined game, one like they played their last game against the Sabres when they used the 1-4 to hobble a speedy Buffalo team, especially if all the potential returnees to the Habs lineup appear on the ice in Montreal tonight. It's entirely possible that tonight's game ould be a goaltender's duel, if it is, expect the difference to be - - - Alexander Ovechkin, Chris Clark and Brooks Laich. The Habs kept Ovechkin off the board last game, if they can do it again and Carey Price stays pretty hot, tonight will be tough going for the Caps unless the Caps star responds and gets some drive to the net from Clark and Laich to keep some pressure on the Habs goalie.

It should be a fun game to watch. I'll be Rockin' the Red from the comfort of my den in Bristow, VA. How about y'all?

After musing, my prediction is Caps 4 - Canadeans 2. GWG - Brooks Laich.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tonight: Caps vs. Sabres ... Continued Injury Challenges for the Caps

The Caps recalled Karl Alzner today and it appears they were capable of doing that since veteran forward Mike Knuble was placed on LTIR and returned John Carlson and Andrew Gordon to Hershey. Overall it appears that the Caps are still at least 6 men down for injured, though there is significant speculation that Milan Jurcina will return to the lineup tonight. However defensemen Tom Poti and Shoane Morrisonn out, as well as Forwards Mike Knuble, Alexander Semin, Quintin Laing and Boyd Gordon.

Even injury riddled the Caps are still a formidable opponent capable of beating pretty much any team in the league if they play disciplined, solid hockey for a full sixty minutes. Unfortunately this season the Caps have had trouble doing just that. A situation that's pretty perplexing considering the Caps entered the season in what looked like very solid athletic shape. However, the spate of third period minor penalties seem to point otherwise. Why else besides conditioning would such a talented team take a lead into the third period only to then take minor penalties and put the games outcome in doubt rather then putting the game away. Also look at the 23 penalties taken in the third period from the last 11 games (the month of November), the Caps have been sent to the sin bin 4 times for hooking, 3 times for tripping, 3 times for interference, 3 times for boarding, 3 times for roughing (thank you Bill McCreary & Garry Buttmann for this new call at the next annual meeting I guess the NHL will explore the possibility of a new penalty - "hitting too hard"...), 2 times for high sticking, and once each for goalie interference, slashing, holding and cross checking. Those 23 penalties have been called on 13 different players, the most, 5 of the 23, have been called on Brendan Morrison. Morrison has otherwise been a really great pickup for the Capitals and is pretty much on track for a totally awesome comeback season. I don't have the stats handy but anecdotally I believe part of the reason the 34 year old center from Pitt Meadows, BC has been leading in this inauspicious category is because he is being put out there during a lot of these situations (third period, leading) as he is so good at protecting the puck. B-Mo is a 13th year pro so he really doesn't need anybody telling him that taking 5 third period penalties isn't a good way to close out a game. Actually when you look at the names of who has taken these penalties: B-Mo (5), Knuble (2), Sha-Mo (2) Erskine (2), Semin (2), Pothier (2) Steckel (2), Jurcina (1), Clark (1), Laich (1), Perreault (1) and Ovechkin (1), with the possible exception of Perreault, it's unlikely that any coaching or additional mention of it is necessary.

That said an average of 2.1 third period minor penalties per game is one of the really big Achilles heels in the Capitals game right now. Also during those ten games the Caps managed two penalty free third periods one during a -4 win over the Florida Panthers and the other during a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. That means the Caps had 3 or 4 minor penalties during the remaining 9 games, and during those games the Caps record has been 3-3-3 (0.500 hockey). Tonight the Caps play their fourth game in six nights when they meet the Sabres. The Sabres are coming off three days rest having met and lost to the Senators in Ottawa during their last game on Saturday night. So the Sabres come in to DC rested and hungry for victory. The Sabres are a good team and the Caps will need to ignore the distractions, the injuries, the aches, the pains and stay focused an play a disciplined game for all sixty minutes if they are to resume their winning ways tonight. If the Caps get frustrated because after out shooting the Sabres they still trail or haven't scored, they are just as likely to take a bad penalty in what should be a tight scoring game.

No predictions for tonight here, I'm just positive Zen energy and good thoughts.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not Much To Say Today About the Caps ...

I don't have much to say today about last night's game between the Capitals and the Senators as i missed the vast majority of it basically living my life. I caught part of it on the radio a way of keeping up with things that are hockey that lacks much, then saw a part of the OT, but not the GWG on the tube when I got home. So I cruised the blogsphere today to see what i missed and catch up on other hockey new.

As far as the Caps game, I ascertain it from this morning's reading was a one point night and it should have been a two point night. The Caps and game went pretty much like you could ascertain from he score sheet looking at the third period numbers, add to that that in OT the Caps #1 Defensemen coughed up the puck twice and their rookie goaltender was only able to make one miraculous save out of the two required after being required to make numerous others all the prior 60 minutes, especially the third period and the result was predictable. Also while everyone in the blogsphere understands the Caps have 7 players out and were playing their third game in four nights, it seems nobody feels that is any reason to continue to take minor penalties in the third period, and everyone wishes the Caps would start winning again, like they should... I think that sums it all up pretty well...

In other news around the league last night, you just can't talk hockey today and not mention Dwayne Roloson's performance last evening in Toronto - the Leafs had 61 shots on goal, Roloson stopped 58 and enabled the NY Islanders to leave Toronto with two points. That has to be the best definition of a goaltender stealing a game in the last decade... Not too shabby for a 40 year old who didn't know if any NHL team wanted him last June despite having attained a SV% of 0.915 in 63 GP for the Edmonton Oilers last season... I watched the replay on NHL Center Ice - the guy was awesome especially during the last five minutes of regulation. Really not much else to say one this one other than his prior performance against the Bruins wasn't too shabby either, and if you do the math 58 of 61 is a 0.951 SV%.

The Minnesota Wild and the Montreal Canadeans did something that's become pretty unusual around the NHL , a straight up trade, sending Center Benoit Pouliot to Montreal for Guillaume Latendrasse. Here's what each team is saying about the swap - Minnesota - Montreal. It seems a move designed to get both of these two veterans some new scenery and try and get their performances jump started back to their usual prior numbers. It's something you just don't see much of anymore in this era of free agency and the salary cap because it's not often all the variables can line up to let this happen.

Finally, last night was another night I'd point to as to why every game in the NHL should be a three point game. There were 10 games last night and 4 of them were three point games - 40%. Now look at the standings this morning, just three points separates the 5th place team from the 13th place team in the Eastern Conference. Three points, nine teams, last night of those nine teams only three of them had the opportunity to capture "the extra point" while the other six had to fight for just two points in regulation, by what I see as an injustice in the Eastern Conference, Boston and the Rangers were adversely affected by the current point system last night, since they only got two points for a regulation win. If every game was three points Boston would not have awakened to find themselves tied with Buffalo and the rangers would not have awakened to find themselves tied with the Islanders, Lightning and Flyers. In the Western Conference, Edmonton, Nashville and Dallas would have all fared better last night if they got three points for a regulation win, and yes yet again it would affect the standings in a manner where the implications were significant.

Next up for the Capitals the Sabres at Verizon Center.


Monday, November 23, 2009

What If? ... EVERY NHL Game Was a 3 Point Game

For some time readers here have heard me muse that I don't like the "extra point." Lots of folks call it the loser's extra point but I have and continue to maintain the team getting the extra point is the team that wins either the OT period or the gimmick. I make this assertion since "back in the day" when a game could end in a tie after regulation, the two teams split the points each getting one.

For lots of reasons, the biggest being one I can't fathom but apparently some folks do indeed feel as Mr. Butt oops I mean Bettmann does and like the current OT/Shoot Out format, I've given up hoping the "gimmick" will go away. However I continue to hope things get changed so teams winning in regulation get more points than teams who don't.

From my perspective, the solution is quite simple make every game worth 3 points - a win in regulation and the winner gets all three points; a win in OT or the SO and you split the points, 2 to the winner and one to the "looser". A loss in regulation and you have the current status quo, "a no point night." Don't you think that would make more sense? Especially with the growing parity in the league due to the salary cap and the increased number of games going beyond regulation. As of the end of last night's games there have already been 85 games this season where an "extra point" has been awarded, and the extra point is figuring in the standings in interesting ways. For example, in the Eastern Conference as of this morning, the Washington Capitals are in first place by one point, interestingly that one point, the Boston Bruins are in Eighth place by one point, and because of the parity I'm talking about just two points separate the 5th place Philadelphia Flyers and the 12th place New York Islanders. In the West, just three points separate the 6th place Columbus Blue Jackets and the 11th place Vancouver Canaucks. Clearly having some games where an extra point is issued and others where it is not, regardless of who you feel is getting the "extra point" does now have a significant impact in the standings. Those 85 games with "extra points" are just shy of 26% of all games played to date.

To give you an idea of how different the Conference standings would look if every game to date were "a three point game" like I propose I put the standings together based on such a change and here's how things look in each Conference:

Eastern Conference:

Western Conference:

See anything different from the current official standings?

First off, if you look at what happens with the teams with the largest amount of Wins in regulation vs. the teams with the largest amount of "Overtime Wins" in their Conferences, you get a slightly different picture then the current standings and seeding if the playoffs were to start tomorrow. Of course that's not a real definite thing to do, but here's my first supposition looking at these modified standings, this system would mean that both the "bubble teams" as well as those fighting for their divisional leads would play harder for the regulation win, in every game down the stretch, not just the ones against division rivals.

The differences by Conference as of today are as follow.

Eastern Conference:

The Capitals would still be in first one point ahead of the team immediately behind them but that team would be New Jersey and not Pittsburgh. Buffalo would still be in third as the Northeast Division Leaders. Pittsburgh (basically exchanging positions with NJ and given that NJ has two games in hand that still might be how things play out) would be in fourth and Philadelphia would also be where they today 5th. Below that things change markedly though. If we were on an every game is three points plan the 6th, 7, 8 & 9 teams would be: 6) New York Rangers, 7) Ottawa Senators, 8) Atlanta Thrashers, and 9) Boston Bruins instead of where they are now: 6) Ottawa, 7) Tampa Bay, 8) Boston and 9 Atlanta. Also instead of being one point out of 8th, the Thrashers would be 2 points in front of 9th and Tampa Bay would be in 11th.

In the Western Conference, the top 5 teams and positions would remain as they are. However the 6 & 7th places would be reversed with 6th being Phoenix and 7th being Columbus one point behind the 'Yotes, 8th place Detroit would be one point ahead of both 9th place Vancouver and 10th place Dallas and Nashville would be in 11th place 2 points behind Detroit instead on in 9th one point back. While this might not matter to many, it will clearly matter to the "bubble teams" and their fans and I simply ask - if you don't do something like this what does a regulation game of Ice Hockey mean?

Another interesting thing to look at is what does this mean at the very bottom of the standings where the bottom 5 teams finishes impact their chance of getting the first round draft choice next summer? Well again it would matter. Today the way the standings are 26th place goes to St. Louis, 27) Minnesota, 28) Anaheim, 29) Carolina, and 30) Toronto. If they all were three point games the bottom 5 places in the league standings would look like this: 26) Montreal, 27) Minnesota, 28) Anaheim, 29) Toronto, 30) Carolina. In a game where parity is truly making every little delta matter, these things will start to add up and should be addressed sooner rather then later.

I'll say it again, if a regulation game of three 20 minute periods is to mean anything, winning in regulation should count more over the course of a season then wining in Overtime or via the shootout, just as finishing a game in regulation tied should be worth than loosing outright. The changes to the finishing placings impact home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and that shouldn't be underestimated, The changes in who gets what draft choice the following summer and that can mean the difference between having a shot at a Crosby, Malkin, Oveckin, or Tavares or not. It all does add up, and when a team is fighting for inches like Al says, shouldn't we reward the ones who win those battles more then the ones who don't? The simple, easy way to do that is to just make EVERY game worth a total of three points. If a silly guy like me can see that why can't the NHL Board of Governors?

Next up for the Washington Capitals, Ottawa tonight in Ottawa.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Couple More Thoughts On Last Night's Loss To Toronto

This could be titled "Another Reason To 'Love' Alexander Ovechkin As A Hockey Player."

Following last night's game in Toronto Alexander Ovechkin, the lone goal scorer on the Capitals team was reportedly interviewed and quoted as saying: "We didn't move our legs [including] me," he said. "I'm not happy how I play today. I'm not happy how my line play today. We score one goal, but we have to score more. We have more ice time than everybody, so we have to use it. We had a couple of chances on the power play, we don't score." It's nice to see a team's star taking responsibility for a loss, especially when it's clear he's still on the mend and he didn't have a bad night though he clearly could have had a better one. "The Great Eight's" stat line for last night was: 1 goal, +1, total ice time 26:38, average shift 01:09, 6 shots on goal, 4 attempts blocked, 2 missed, 1 hit, 1 giveaway, 1 takeaway, 1 shot blocked. Comparatively relative to the rest of his teammates he looked pretty good. However, as he's clearly willing to admit he's not comparing himself to most other players in the NHL and he and his top line teammates are getting more ice time and chances to do more and it's okay for all of us including himself to expect more. That's why he is no doubt one of the best, if not, THE best hockey player in the world today. You just gotta love it though that a highly paid athlete isn't looking for any excuses, he's just looking inward and at his teammates and saying hey guys, it's "showtime", it's "Take No Prisoners Time." That's the way he plays the game and that's why no matter whether you think he's merely one of the best or THE best, he'll always be great to watch.

On a separate note, another person noted that the Caps record with Semin out hasn't been too hot - by my count it's 1-1-1 and if you add New Jersey, a game when Semin was clearly playing hurt it's 1-2-1. Just a thought but maybe someone besides me ought to realize that despite his frequently pointed out "streakiness, etc., the other Alex takes pressure off of "The Great Eight" even when he's not on the ice that gives Ovechkin some time and space. Of course you could also look at the Caps record over the same time frame and say the missing key ingredient was Mike Knuble as well. I'd say you're right on both counts. With Knuble and Semin in the lineup - Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Laich are given more space. With them in the lineup a team's better shutdown guy can't spend ALL night focusing on Ovechkin.

One thing folks can't point to as an issue these past four games has been goaltending - that was again true last night, Varlamov, like Neuvirth on Friday night, deserved better. Even though you might point to the 5-2 loss to New Jersey and say they might have gotten a better game there out of Jose Theodore, I still don't think the real issue there was goaltending, there were other missing key ingredients and missteps that were more likely the root causes that resulted in that loss.

Here's hoping the Caps use today and tomorrow morning's skate to get things like lines and defensive pairings sorted out. A few of the combinations last night just didn't work too well as the team and coaching stuff sorted them out during the game.

Next up the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa, Monday at 7:30PM EST.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Toronto A One Point Night for the Caps on HNIC

Well another not so fun night for Caps fans. The Caps didn't play horribly but they didn't play great either. In the end, Vesla Toskla had a solid game and a "flukey" goal got by Semyon Varlamov so the game ended regulation tied 1-1. In overtime the goaltenders continued to be tough and that too ended with the score knotted at 1 all. Then it was time for the gimmick and well the Leafs won with 2 goals in 3 attempts (Phil Kessel and Nicklas Hagman) while the Caps didn't score at all - Eric Fehr broke a stick and Alexander Ovechkin missed the net.

The goal scorers in regulation - for the Caps it was Alexander Ovechkin #16 on the season off a really awesome setup pass from Mike Green. For the Leafs the goal was credited to Nicklas Hagman as it bounced off his arm last.

In my pregamer I missed the fact that Mike Knuble is still out as well as everyone else I had on the list. Man will I be glad when some of the guys start coming back and the roster starts to stabilize again...

Next up Ottawa at ScotiaBank Place on Monday night.


Looking To Tonight's Game In Toronto...

Well last night wasn't a fun game to watch. It was a "no point" night for the Caps at Verizon Center - of late an infrequent occurrence. However give the Canadeans their due, they played well and they played hard. The Caps really didn't seem to get going until well ... until it was too late and then with too little. Say what you want and everyone will to me the difference maker in last night's game was Carey Price and his 32 saves. In the end the Habs bested the Caps 3-2, no joy in "Muddville" last night.

Last night's loss was followed by a quick flight to Toronto and tonight on Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC) the Caps will face off at Air Canada Center against the Maple Leafs, a storied NHL franchise that is struggling. Now that could be a recipe for joy ... or more heartache. The Caps will again be fielding an injury depleted roster, all be it a talented group it won't be their usual group, or perhaps more accurately the group that was the Caps roster when the season opened. Missing from tonight's lineup for the Caps will be: Alexander Semin, Boyd Gordon, Shoane Morrisonn, Tom Poti, Milan Jurcina, and Quintin Laing. Michael Neuvirth was sent back down to Hershey to make room for the call-up of Andrew Gordon. It appears the starting goaltender will be Semyon Varlamov and Jose Theodore will be on the bench if necessary. There are some interesting gaps in the lineup. On defense, despite starting the season with 8 defensemen on the roster it appears the Caps defensive pairings will consist of a mix of: Mike Green, Brian Pothier, John Erskine, Jeff Schultz, Tyler Sloan and John Carlson. The Caps roster page now shows nine defensemen, and for some reason it appears the gene pools of Calgary and Massachusetts are the overwhelming sources of Capitals blueline talent. On the front lines tonight we'll have: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison, Brooks Laich, Thomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr, Chris Clark, David Steckel, Matt Bradley, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon, and Jay Beagle. Missing from tonight's lineup will be over $17M of salary cap - Semin: $4.6M, Nylander: $4.875, Poti: $3.5, Sha-Mo:$1.975, Jurcina:$1.375, Boyd Gordon: $761K, and Laing: $500K - those 7 players are the equivalent of about a third of an NHL team at this season's Salary Cap $56.8M. Perhaps given the injuries, etc. it's time to start thinking about giving Michael Nylander a sweater and getting something for his salary hit? I really don't understand how the cap works to that degree but doesn't his salary cap hit start counting again soon?

In any case tonight's game will give the Caps a chance to begin anew following the loss to Montreal, they should be able to win, even with the injuries and juggled line-up. They'll need to raise their game across the board, actually they'll need to raise the energy level from what they had last night. As this game is on HNIC, the Leafs will be up for it however, I like others, think they'll have a harder time bottling up the Caps then the Canadeans did last night.

Prediction: Caps 5 - Leafs 3 - I expect solid, excellent games from Backstrom, Ovechkin, Green and Laich on the Caps side of the Red Line - big games elicit big efforts from big players. For Toronto I also expect the usual suspects to have solid nights Kessel, Kabrele and the "Monster" will have good nights but I expect the Caps to have 40+ SOG.

Oh and I'm counting on Don Cherry to look and act like the unmitigated a$$ he is at the intermission, what kind of asinine comment will you make about Ovechkin tonight, Don? Please enlighten us all with your open minded, forward thinking, knowledge, please, please, please...


Friday, November 20, 2009

Look Towards Tonight's Game At Verizon Center Against Le Canadeans...

Tonight at Verizon Center the Caps host the Montreal Canadeans. The Caps come into the game 5-2-1 for the month of November, 6-2-2 in their last ten games and 1st in the Eastern Conference with 30 points in 21 games and a 13-4-4 record on the season. The Canadeans come into the game in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, a full five games behind the Capitals with 20 points in 21 games and a 4-6-0 record in their last ten games with a 10-11-0 record on the season to date. Other relevant record information - on the season to date the Caps are 7-1-3 at Verizon Center and the Canadeans are 4-6-0 on the road.

As for goal differential to date the Caps have 79 GF and 64 GA (+15) and the Canadeans have 52 GF and 61 GA (-9). Overall this game should be C.A.P.S - Caps, Caps, Caps! However, the Caps are wrestling with a few injuries of late and have some shuffling going on in the roster because of that. Sharpshooter Alexander Semin in on Injured Reserved nursing a wrist injury. Shoane Morrison is recuperating from a sorta concussion and will not play tonight. Milan Jurcina is likely still a scratch tonight as he recovers from a muscle pull in his leg. Boyd Gordon continues to be out with a back injury as well and goaltender Jose Theodore is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight as well. Counting Michael Nylander as being out that means the Caps have over $15M of their normal salary cap space either injured or otherwise not playing tonight. I'm not talking about it for a "capoloogist" perspective what I'm saying is that based on the salary cap and roster at the start of the regular season the Caps have players and cap space that totals over 25% of their season start salary cap unavailable for tonight's game. So even though the Canadeans haven't been lighting the world on fire of late, they will have the talent on the ice tonight needed to potentially win tonight's match ups no problem. One of the bright spots of course is that Alexander Ovechkin is firmly back in the lineup and he has always gotten "up" to play against the Habs. Additionally, some of the call ups, in particular Matthieu Perraeult has been playing quite well and it's not unusual for young French-Canadian players to "get up" for games against the Canadeans.

My classmate and ticket partner Tom has the seats for tonight's match up so I'll be rockin' the red here in Bristow - still lovin' the new TV...and really happy about it on nights like tonight.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Two Point Night In The Big Apple For Washington..

So I watched tonight's game on Versus HD on the new 52" LCD Sharp Aquos that Mrs Mark gave me as an early Christmas gift - SWEET! The game I watched was pretty cool too. If you read this blog you probably watched the game as well but hey I gotta be me so my recap follows.

Ranger sharpshooter Marian Gaboriak put his team up 1 - 0 at the 1:16 mark. It was one of those where Semyon Varlamov would like to have the shot taken by Dan Giradi back so he wouldn't have to put the rebound right on to Gaboriak's stick at point blank range and a nice space between he and the post available to him so he could net his 14th goal of the season. In any case, as a sign to the continuing maturation of Varlamov, he shook that goal off and played solid very solidly the rest of the game. At the 13:17 mark Mike Green drew a tripping penalty on Ranger's "bad boy" Sean Avery that oput the Caps on their second powerplay of the evening. The Caps got things going for the night with a well played, smart power play goal by their young guns. Alex Ovechkin was on the point first he put the puck in to Tomas Fleischmann in the left side face off circle as both Brooks Laich and Flash were in front of the net. Backstrom didn't have a shooting lan so he put the puck back to Ovie, no shooting lane. Ovie dishes to Mike Green; Green moves in but has no lane, he makes like he is going to shoot pulling Henrick Ludqvist just a little to the right. Green instead of shooting put the puck back to Ovechkin in the perfect positoin for a one-timer. Ovechkin buries it in the basket just therough the small amount of space the lanky Ranger netminder gives him. Welcome back to the lineup Ovie, goal #15 on the season ties it up 1-1. From what I saw the Caps were playing their game and outplayed the Rangers the first period out shooting them 15-5 and if not for the Rangers super goaltender Henrick Lundqvist would likely have been up by at least a goal against a lot of other teams in the league. But as it was the team went into intermission looking ahead to a 40 minute game after they would come back onto the ice.

Hey wait a minute - what about the fight? What fight? The one between Matt Bradley and Aaron Voros. Oh yeah that fight well at the 10:35 mark of the period Brads and Voros dropped em. It looked for a while that Brads was going to win his first hockey fight of the season but then Voros came back and caught Brads with a right that cut him above Brads' left eye and I'd think youy'd have to say that despite probably winning the fight if this were real boxing based on points scored, since Bradley had to go to the dressing room and get cleaned up, you'd have to score this one for Voros. It did accent the grittiness of the game and help establish that the Caps weren't going to be pushed around tonight though, so once again you have to really like that both Bradley and Erskine were in the lineup tonight and they came to play.

The second perid, the Rangers took things up a notch but the Caps responded as well. During the second period the Caps out hit the Rangers 9-3 and the teams each notched 6 shots on goal. The difference for the period was penalties and penalty killing. The Rangers gave the Caps two power plays in the second period and the Caps only gave the Rangers one, better yet, assuming you are a Caps fan, the Caps capitalized on the second power play chance they were given during the period. Through the first two periods the Caps successfully held the Rangers power play scoreless on all three power plays they had to face. In fact the Capitals PK tonight was quite impressive. The one goal of the period by the Caps came at the 15:44 mark with the Caps on the power play. At 14:11 the Energizer Bunny Mathieu Perrault drew a hooking penalty on Ales Kotalik. After Boyle cleared the puck into the Capitals end, Mike Green brought the puck up ice and into the zone. As he entered the zone he ran into heavy traffic and passed the puck off to Alexader Ovechkin who threaded the needle over to Chris Clark in the right side circle. Clark then dished the puck back to Green who was driving the net. Green didn't have an opening as he skated past Lunqvist so he put the puck back to Brooks Laich who was trailing him to the net as well. Lundqvist stopped the pass to Laich but couldn't control the puck as Laich buried it into the net through his five hole for his 9th goal of the season. That goal put the Caps up 2-1 which is how the period ended.

During the third period the Caps and Rangers each got 3 chances to score with a man up on the power play. Unfortunately, during the Rangers second power play chance of the evening their Magician, Marian Gaboriak scored on a shot that I venture to guess only one other player on the ice could have taken and scored on with any regularity. It was one of those shots where goaltender Semyon Valamov had to make the percentage choice, he chose correctly but the sniper got it by him anyway - that type of goal that was discussed ad nuseum and intelligently just this afternoon over at Japer's Rink - how's that for irony. In any case it was a beuty, one of those goals where no matter how many times I watch the replay and shake my head and say how did he do that. It was a goal worthy of Ovechkin or Semin; it was a goal the likes of which are why the Rangers went and got Gaboriak from the available free agents this summer. The goal was Gaboiraik's 15th of the season, it tied the game at 2-2 and tied the Ranger Ace with OV for the league lead in goals. It was a tough tightly played period and the Caps hung in and played hard even though they were outshot for the period ( ) the Caps once again outhit the Rangers 14-8. Their determination was no better displayed then at the 15:09 mark Matt Bradley took the puck away from Wade Redden, got a step on him, then used his body to protect the puck and skate in on Henrick Lundvist. Lundqvist dropped his shoulder slight to square up on Brads and the gritty 31 year old winger from Stittsville, Ontario fired his 4th goal of the season into the top shelf of the net like a 50 goal scoring sniper. Brads finished the evening an assist shot of a Gordie Howe hat trick. The Rangers continued to challenge the Caps and tried to tie the game, pulling Lundqvist for the extra skater at the 18:53 mark. They pressed and had the Caps penned into their zone pretty well util the 19:43 mark when Brian Pothier lobbed the puck up to get some fresh bodies on to the ice and ended up getting his third goal unassisted by netting what is listed in the stat sheets as a 165 foot backhand for a goal. The game ended Caps 4 - Rangers 2.

The NY Media voted the three stars of the game as:

1) Alexander Ovechkin

2) Marian Gaboriak

3) Matt Bradley.

All in all not a bad set of Stars of the Game. With a stat line of 1 SOG, 1 Goal Scored, 2 attempts blocked, 4 misses, 7 hits, and 1 takeaway; Ovechkin certainly made his presence in the game felt during the 22 shifts where he logged 19:23 in his return to the lineup after a 6 game hiatus. As the only Ranger to find the back of the net there's no argument with Marian Gaboriak who 24:03 TOI during 27 shifts and led everyone except Mike Green on both teams in ice time tonight. Matt Bradley had 2/3RDs of a "Gordie Howe" including the game winner and also finished the game +1 and had 3 hits as well during his 13:23 TOI, that has to be looked at as a very good game for the 4th liner, I'd bet he got the hard hat tonight but several other guys also put in good nights. After starting out by yielding a goal, Semyon Varlamov out played Lundqvist turing in a save percentage of 0.900 stopping 18 of 20 tonight including a couple of tough saves to keep the Caps in the lead. Brian Pothier had 3 block shots in addition to his empty net goal and played well except for taking a High Sticking minor in the third period. Mike Green's 2 assists, +1, 5 shots on goal and 2 blocked shots in 24: 55 TOI was a solid night "for sure." David Steckel was once again a beast in the faceoff circle (winning 8 of 11); "Stecks" also had 3 shots on goal, 1 attempt blocked and 1 miss - including 2 that were close, it's only a matter of time before the pucks start finding the back of the net for Steckel. Mathieu Perreault won 5 of 7 draws and drew a penalty that resulted in a power play goal for the Caps in just 8:57 TOI.

On the negative side of things per Tariq's blog: "Coach Bruce Boudreau said he thinks Quintin Laing suffered a broken jaw when he was struck in the face by a Michal Rozsival shot in the third period. The team has not provided an official diagnosis yet, but Boudreau said Laing will remain in New York overnight for observation." Here's hoping all is okay with "Q."

Next up Montreal at Verizon Center on Friday evening. Tom has the tickets for that game so I'll be watching once again on the new TV here in Bristow.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ugh - A Nooo Point Night In NJ...

Well what can you say. It was the second night of a back to back and the Caps joust couldn't make it happen. They went out to a 2-0 lead on two goals you don't often see Marty Brodeaur give up and then after that is was pretty much all Devils. You could pick one thing or the other but that probably wouldn't be fair, it was a game where the Devils just played their game all sixty minutes and the Capitals pretty much, I can't say let them, no I think saying just couldn't stop them would be a better characterization. I really don't think tonight was anybody in a Capitals uniform played their wost game ever, and I don't think it was anybody's best game ever either.

Personally I'm not going to dwell on things good or bad tonight. So far for the season the Capitals are second in the Eastern Conference tied at 28 points with the same NJ Devils who beat them handily tonight 5-2. The Caps are 12-4-4 (0.778) while the Devils are 14-4-0. So far this month the Caps are 4-2-1 (0.643) and have gone 4-2-0 while Alexander Ovechkin has been out. Next up the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday Evening.


Caps 3 - Wild 1 Another 2 Point Night At Verizon Center

Last night's game was another keeper if you're a Capitals fan. The Caps came out pretty slowly (being out shot 7 - 1 during the first 9:40 of the first period.) However, from the 10:00 minute mark of the first period on, if not for Wild goal tender Josh Harding, the Capitals would have raced out to a lead. As it was the game ended in regulation with the Capitals taking a 2 point victory from the Wild in what was a one goal tight game until Brooks Laich put the Capitals two goals ahead with an insurance empty net tally at the 19:23 mark of the final stanza.

Also despite outplaying the Wild from the 10:00 mark of the first period, the Caps gave up the first goal to the Wild's Cal Clutterbuck at 1:31 of the second period and trailed until at 5:35 of that stanza Mike Green got his third goal of the season when he poked a nice feed from Tomas Fleischmann through Harding's Five Hole on the power play. The second period ended with the score knotted at 1-1 despite the Capitals out shooting the Wild 31-16 up to that point of the game. However, when the third period opened, the Caps came out determined to press their advantage and take the lead. That occurred at the 2:00 mark when Brian Pothier joined the rush, as he had several times earlier during the night. Pothier got a pass from Mathieu Perreault (as one of my neighbors in 103 calls him - "The Energizer Bunny") and put a nice wrister past Harding's stick side low for his second goal of the season to put the Capitals up 2-1. The Caps continued to play clean, driven hockey for the remainder of the period staying out of the "Sin Bin" for the entirety of the third period and keeping the Wild off the board. There were a couple of Wild scoring chances during the third period where Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov earned his pay for the night, in fact Varly ended the evening with a solid "W" having stopped 29 of 30 and a SV% of 0.967. However Varly's excellent performance was apparently eclipsed in the eyes of the Mainstream Media present who voted Wild Goaltender Josh Harding the evening's first star. To be sure Harding deserved one of the night's stars having stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced (a SV% of 0.950 for the night) and was the best Wild player on the ice last night but the first star? to an opposing goalie who let up two goals in a loosing effort? and statistically wasn't the best goaltender on the ice for the game?

To follow up again to the Semin haters out there - last night the "other Alex" again had a solid night. Despite being kept off the scoreboard for the night, because he spent the night with virtually always one, usually two, and at times as many as three Wild players draped on his back, he finished his night +1, got four good shots, drew a penalty when Nick Schultz felt forced to trip him during the first period to keep him away from the play, and he stayed out of the box. Semin also played 1:27 on the PK unit and as I've mentioned before i always feel having him out there a couple of times a game helps keep him more mindful of his defensive responsibilities for the rest of the game. Last night he played really smart hockey and made a few sick moves. On all four of his shots on goal, Harding had to earn his pay. I'm certainly happier having Semin on our roster for $4M then I would have been having Martin Havlat for $5M. Havlat despite getting 8 of the Wild's 30 shots on goal just didn't seem to be all that noticable or a threat often last night; to be sure the Caps kept aware of where he was but they sure didn't seem to feel the need to hang all over him like the Wild did Semin.

Other Capitals notables last night: Brian Pothier of course the second star of the game, Potsy had a goal, 2 hits and 3 blocked shots in 19:24 TOI. Tomas Fleischmann had an assist, and was even on the night in 18:35 TOI. John Erskine was +1, and had 3 hits and 2 shots on goal in 18:10 TOI. Brooks Laich had an empty net goal, was 60% (3 of 5) in the faceoff circle, and had 5 shots on goal in 20:23 TOI. David Steckel was a beast in the face off circle taking 15 of 18 (83%) of his draws and had 4 SOG, 1 A/B, 2 hits and 1 takeaway in 13:15 TOI. Quintin Laing had a great night finishing +1, 1 SOG, 1 A/B, 2 missed attempts, 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 13:08 TOI. Mike Green who scored his 3rd goal of the year in 20:21 TOI had a solid outing as well. Overall it was a well played game all around and good prep for tonight's game against the Devils in New Jersey.

Looking towards tonight, back to backs are always tough and back to backs against two solid defensive teams are even tougher. OV had been listed as a game time decision, but just a short time ago Tarik indicated that he would miss his sixth game tonight but will likely return for Tuesdays game against the Rangers; and after last night's game the Caps announced Mike Knuble will be out 4 weeks or more with a broken finger. Tonight's game in Newark will be a real test for the Caps but they have to feel driven given the last time the two teams met in NJ, the Devils handed the Caps a no point night.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Vindicated - - - - Haters; Caps 5 - Islanders 4 (SO), Semin Has Excellent Night...

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted and the relatively abrupt ending to this post...I've been interuppted in pulling it together about 20 times since Wed Night when I got hme from the game...

So first off, Wed night was a two point night for the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center in another three point night kind of way. I haven't read the other blogs, or Tarik or Corey's blogs or articles, I haven't looked over the Caps press releases, etc. on the game, even now (Friday morning). I was there and have my own, likely slightly contrary views to some about the night. After all, I've never been in the closet about my support and opinions for the play and potential of Alexander Semin, or for that matter Jose Theodore and what I write here about both will be my own views, the views of a person wholly unqualified to make judgements, assessments or pronouncements. At least no more qualified than anybody else with the price of admission to a game and who prefers to spend a disproportionate amount of his disposable income/recreation budget on "those things hockey". Here's the game I was at.

Eight seconds in just finished putting my jacket on the back of my seat in Section 103 and BAM! Brendan Morrison takes the opening faceoff puts the puck onto the stick of Alexander Semin "the other Alex --- really "The Unfairly Maligned Alex" --- he shoots and HE SCCOOOOOORRREEES! Caps up 1-0. The look on Semin's face - relief; the look on Semin's mother's face in the row behind me as we all do high fives, joy.

Unfortunately a little less than a minute later, Islander Left Wing and leading goal scorer Matt Moulsen returned the favor scoring for the Islanders. Game tied 1 - 1 at the 1:02 mark of the period's after goal number 1 that Caps goaltender Jose Theodore would like back but that frankly he didn't get a lot of help on. Then at the 5:10 mark of the period, Islanders' defenseman Mark Streit helps press the attack and is rewarded with his third goal of the season on the the fourth shot of the game for the Islanders. Wow these guys are real sharpshooters; of course it would help if the Caps, including Jose Theodore weren't all collapsing back and giving them room to roam. Then at the 6:54 mark, Mike Green in one of those "high risk/high reward" things ends up on the "high risk" side of things and yields a 1-0 breakaway to Islander Left Wing Sean Bergenheim who skates in on a less than then fully confident Jose Theodore. Theodore backed into the net quickly instead of aggressively challenging the 25 year old Finn who fired his second goal of the season past the Caps goalie to put his team up 3-1 at that time. Bergenheim's goal ended Jose Theodore's evening as he was pulled in favor of rookie Semyon Varlamov having yielded 3 goals on 5 Islander shots at that point.

Coach Boudreau's decision at that time to change goaltenders seemed to have the desired effect, a frustrated netminder was replaced with a young, determined one and the team also seemed to tighten things up a little. Also Varlamov made some solid stops over the next 8 - 10 minutes and the Caps blue line corps let the Islanders know they weren't going to tolerate them running into the Caps' goalies all night. Things went back and forth while the Caps edged their shots on goal total up slowly until the Caps had a good shift penning the Isles into their end and drawing a holding penalty from J. Sim at 12:14. On the ensuing power play Tomas Fleischman once again showed us all he definately has a nose for the net and Nicklas Backstrom showed us he may well be the consumate playmaker in the NHL today with a solid primary assist on "Flash's" 6th goal of the season at the 13:42 mark of the period, narrowing the Islanders lead to one goal. From about the 10:00 mark on the Caps took it the Islanders and Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson kept the Isles in the hunt; while Varlamov kept the Isles stuck on "3"...

The second period started with Tim Jackman taking an interference penalty to give the Caps their second power play of the night. The Isles kille that Penalty off and things see-sawed with the Caps having the "control" edge throughout the first period but once again the Islaes gave the Caps a power play when Josh Bailey got called for interferance. This one provided Mike Green a stage on which to work and setup Alexander Semin who scored his second of the night and 9th of the season at the 5:35 mark of the period to knot the score at 3-3. After this goal, there was actually a lot more joy vs. relief on Semin's face. It bears mentioning as well that the setup by Mike Green was patented Green and was a display of superior skating ability by him all the way into the zone and around the net while Semin went to the nt and got open for the setup. And in case you were pondering the question the tally did mean the caps went 66.6667% on the power play for the game. After tying the game the Caps kept the pressure on but Roloson hung tough until the 16:46 mark of the second period when Eric Fehr notched his second goal of the season assisted by Captain Chris Clark and Mike Green (that was Green's 13th assist of the season). The second period ended with the Caps up 4-3.

For the entire third period the Caps played hard and seemed determined to make sure the game ended in regulation with a 5 or more goal victory (can you say Wings!?!) by Dwayne Roloson had other ideas and wwas unfathomable at times. The Caps also took three penalties in the third period. I presonally didn't really think the infractions were something that should necessarily have been called but when I think in this day's NHL when you are up you need to play unquestionably clean hockey else everything seems to go against you.

For all intents and purpooses from the 15:10 mark when Dave Steckel was called for holding until the 17:52 mark when T. Hunter put a laser just past Varly's glove the Caps were skating one man down and looked like they were going to hold off the Islanders and end this game in regulation. Alas that wasn't to be, Hunter's shot was a rocket, I'm not sure Varly saw it so much as was playing the angle properly and that's why he might possibly have stopped it if his hand wes 3 inches high. However th reulst was the third period ended with the score tied 4-4. Was that such a surprise? It was a Caps - Islanders game after all.

Overtime, once again if not for Roloson and a few fortunate bounces. During OT the Caps got off 4 shots 3 of which I'd call scoring chances. The Islanders had one (1) SOG. Victory wasn't to come for the Caps yet, on to the Gimmick, urrh I mean shootout.

For the Caps Backstrom shot wide;

For the Isles Tambellini nic move scored;

For the Caps Semin, sick move puts a backhander into the roof of the net on Roloson's blocker side and scores;

Isles' Tavares, wide of the net (was he trying to do "anything you can do I can do better with Backstrom perhaps?" My perdication - these two guys will be the acknowledged best centers in the league along with that Crosby kid, before long.)

Caps' Bredan Morrison wrister saved by Roloson;

Isles' Schremp backhand stopped by Varly - never a doubt...

Next fourteen more shooters (7 from each team) are basically denied by good goaltending, the only close one was Mike Gren hitting the TOP of the crossbar duirng round 7 of the shhotout.

Then the 21st shooter, Captain Chris Clark, having watched 9 of his teammates fail, came in and as soon as Dwayne Roloson gave him an opening, sent a nice, quick release snapshot past him to put the Caps ahead and the next Islander shooter on the hot seat. The final attempt of the shootout was made by Islanders defenseman Mark Streit and Semyon Varlamov was "having none of it" he snuffed out Streit's wrister with determination and celebrated by banging his stick on both posts. If he was Johnny Drama we no doubt would have heard him shout "VICTORY!!!" all the way down at our end of the VC in section 103.

It was a sweet game for me in many ways. I attended with a good freind from college and we had a pleaseant dinner catching up before getting to VC and we had a great time at the game. I shouted myself hoarse and I';m ready to do it again tonight. One of my three favorite Capitals - Alexander Semin - was vindicated (take that you haters -yeah!). It was a two point night, I'm still perplexed as to how the press decided to make Mark Streit and not Dwayne Roloson the third star of the game, I know Streit had a goal and an assist and was +2 on the night but Roloson stopped 37 of 41 shots (0.902) to give the Islanders a chance at two points, some of his saves were pretty incredible. For the Caps I think they got the right two guys listed as stars Varlamov and Semin and I really don't care which was listed as 1st and who was 2nd. Do I think Semin's 2 goals in regulation and shootout goal along with 11 SOG, 3 A/B and 1 missed attempt while staying well away from the sin bin will get people firmly off his case and behind him? No not really but I'm sure he feels at least a little vinidicated. Heck I would.

Now it's time to start thinking about tonight's game against the Wild - hey you dudes from Minnesota - we'll be there, we'll be there 18,277 strong Rocking the Red and cheering for our guys? You where will you be? In front of your TV's out in the cold land of 10,000 lakes eh? FYI it won't be much different here than there - projected temp and conditions in St. Paul, MN at 8PM CST is 49F and raining - but oh yeah, we'll be watching our guys in person. All joking aside the Caps will need to play disciplined hockey and I don't expect the over and under to be greater than 6 goals tonight if Caps are to win.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review of Last Night's Caps 7-4 Win Over The Panthers and A Few Musings...

Last night was a 2 point night, unfortunately I missed the entire game as we took our son back to college on Long Island and between a later than planned start in the morning and "mis-underestimating" the duration of the trip back, we walked back into the house probably about 20 minutes or so after the buzzer sounded ending the third period with the Capitals up 7-4. Another two point night and this one with Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz all in the press box. So I've spent part of today, after playing what was my first and probably will be my last round of golf for 2009, reviewing the game recaps and buzz around the Caps "blogsphere".

So how did I do on my predictions, I wondered... my predictions were:

1) Final score Caps 4 - Panthers 2; - wrong 7-4 wasn't even close...

2) Semin has at least a two point night; - wrong Semin didn't score but did has 2 of the Caps 3 minor penalties, played 19:10

3) Backstrom has at least a two point night; - correct, Backy had two assists, he also had another monster night in the faceoff circle, as did David Steckel.

4) Knuble scores a goal; - I'm taking this one as correct since he had two goals, and two assists - MONSTER night for Knuble..

5) Somebody we don't expect, probably Erskine scores a goal;and - I'm taking this one as correct since Quintin Laing scored his second, I'd love for things to change and me and the rest of us Caps fans to be able to expect Laing to score but right now, it's an unexpected thing we all love to see.

6) Shoane Morrisonn is indeed, wrongly, suspended for two games... wrong on that one, thankfully, oh and Shaone Morrisonn had a good game for the stats sheet perspective at least.

So how did the Caps score 7 goals with two of the four "young guns" in the press box? Well it was a team effort, 13 different Capitals had at least one point. To review: Mike Knuble had a monster night with two goals and two assists. Tomas Fleischmann also had a big night scoring a pair of goals. Brooks Laich, Quintin Laing and Mathieu Perreault (scoring his first career NHL goal) also added markers for the Capitals. In fact everyone in the lineup except Milan Jurcina, John Erskine, Alexander Semin, Tyler Sloan and Dave Steckel. How Steckel didn't end up with at least a point in a game where he won 11 of 18 faceoffs is a question I'll not understand having not seen the game but whatever. In any case I'll continue to predict for Alexander Semin to have a good night, and safely assume that Steckel will win faceoffs until the stars align and it happens on the same night.

In any case next up or the Capitals will be the Islanders at Verizon Center on Wednesday evening so there's plenty of time to muse about a lot of things. My first muse is to point out that the Caps have started November the way they ended October, playing 0.600+ hockey. In other words the Capitals continue on pace for another 100+ point season. Further, the past two games have helped address the whole secondary scoring discussion. Through 17 games the Caps now have 7 players on track for 20+ goal seasons: 1) Alexander Ovechkin; 2) Brooks Laich; 3) Alexander Semin; 4) Brendan Morrison; 5) Mike Knuble; 6) Tomas Fleischmann; and 7) Nicklas Backstrom. Others who are on track for career years as far as NHL regular season goal production include: Matt Bradley who is on pace for 14+ goals this season; Quintin Laing who is on pace for 10 goals; and Tyler Sloan who is also on pace for 10 goals. Add to that a hopefully rejuvenated Mike Green who finds his scoring touch and strengthens the power play when he returns to the line up and you'll have a team with 10 guys you really have to worry about lighting the lamp when they are on the ice for the Capitals.

Across the board, the Capitals are looking pretty solid. Ovechkin is on pace for a 110+ point season and even with a a multi-week healing period this month is still likely to once again be in the running for the scoring titles. Alexander Semin, maligned of late is on track for 33 goals and 38 assists - 70+ points. Brooks Laich is on track for a career year - 33 goals and 53 assists - 80+ points. Nicklas Backstrom is on track for 19 or 20 goals, and 82 assists - a 100 point season, it's worthwhile to note that Backstrom's assists totals continue to grow seemingly regardless of who he skates with. Tomas Fleischman appears well on his way to a 20+ goal/30+ point season... and the list goes on. The other good news seems to be that you can't ignore that both Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison are at least as good or better than the guys they replaced in the line-up, Kozlov and Federov, in regards to production.

Offensive production doesn't appear to be much of an issue for the Caps, thanks to last night's 7-4 win over the panthers, the Capitals lead the league in goals scored with 65 goals for. Another interesting point to note is only 3 teams have a better GF-GA differential then the Capitals have to date (the Caps are +13): San Jose: + 19; the New York Rangers: + 15; Colorado: +15. Interestingly right now with 24 points in 17 games the Caps are fourth in the league's overall standings and second in the Eastern Conference. In the Southeast Division the Caps are 7 points in front of the second place Tampa Bay Lightning however the Lightning have two games in hand on the Caps so if we were tracking this "baseball style" the Caps would only be 2 1/2 games up on the boys from Tampa.

Another look in baseball "lingo" at what the Caps have been doing so far this season, overall for the season the Caps are playing 0.706 hockey on the year. If you project that to season's end the Caps are on track for a 115+ point season. Let that sink in - if you don't understand why you go to Verizon Center and come away roundly disappointed if the Caps don't win, you need only realize the Caps are currently playing 0.722 hockey at home. That's a long way from the early years of the "rebuild" for those of us who lived through those recent "slow years."

To be sure the Capitals are now dealing with a spate of injuries and the season and playoffs assuming they make them will go much more smoothly when they get healthy but this team is really cooking with gas and finding ways to win on most nights. The other positive trend of late has been the Capitals are playing more disciplined hockey and taking fewer penalties in games, at least the last two, and last night they didn't take any penalties during the Third Period. That has to continue if the Caps are to keep up their current winning trend.

Wednesday should be a good game, the Islanders and the Caps have already had two close games and the Islanders came away with an OT win when the teams last met on October 30th at Verizon Center. The Caps and we Caps fans will be looking for a 2 point, regulation win night...


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Caps 4 - Panthers 1; A Two Point Night But Who's On The Roster Tonight?

Last night the Capitals met the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida and came away with a convincing 2 point win against a Southeast Division foe. Congratulations, boys, job well done. Of course you all just need to turn around and do the same thing tonight back here in DC. Will tonight's game be deja vu all over again? Well, probably night but before we get to that and why let's celebrate the good and recap last night's two point win.

What went right, well a lot of things the two biggest wre and are obvious: 1) Jose Theodore had a great night and was on his game, he also got help from his defense the couple of times he needed it; 2) the Caps as a whole figured out Tomas Vokoun and the Floridsa netminder didn't get that much help, if any, from his blue liners when he needed it. The game summary report makes this pretty clear. Key statistics: Goalie matchup results: Theodore's SV% on the night: 0.966 (28 of 29), Vokoun's SV% 0.840 (21 of 25). Capitals shooting percentage on the night: 16.0% (4 of 25): goal scorers: Brendan Morrison (2 goals, 1 of which was an empty netter); Brian Pothier (1); and Tyler Sloan (1). The Caps figured out the key to beating Vokoun is an interesting mix of combining their speed with some patience - patience to take the space the Panthers gave them while still shooting quickly and making the Florida netminder, who IMO is one of the league's best, move. I've been down on Capital's Captain Chirs Clark alot this year, but his primary assist on Tyler Sloan's goal, the first of the evening and Sloan's second of the season, was truly a thing of beauty. I could watch that play at least 50 or 100 times before I got tired of it - it truly looks like Clark is running a clinic as he turns and makes the perfect pass right on to the tape of Sloan's stick. Brendan Morrison's first goal of the night was another good one, scored because of a great combinations: work, grit, and skill. Pothier's goal was a one-timer that you could also watch repeatedly, both the set-up passes from Fleischmann to Backstrom, and even more so from Backstrom to Pothier. The shot by Brian Pothier for his first goal of the season was "Ovechkin-esque" in that he got everything on it. The fact it came on a power play while both Ovie and Mike Green were out made it even sweeter. The not so great were the fact the Capitals three (actually two and a misconduct) came in the third period, fortunately during the five minute boarding major to Shoane (vice the NHLN mispronunciation "Shane") Morrisonn, the Caps responded and limited the Panthers to just one shot on goal. Why Florida waited until after that penalty was over to pull Vokoun at the 18:47 mark of the period, I'll probably wonder for sometime, but I'd rather be lucky than good most of the time. In any case the game was then iced when Brendan Morrison got his sixth (6) goal of the season on an empty netter that he had to work for. One other item of note is the statistics sheet will show that Alexander Semin had a relatively uneventful nigh 19:14 TOI, 1 SOG, 2 A/B, 2 MS and 1 TK. What it doesn't show is he spent most of those 19:14 with multiple Panthers on him whenever he was near the play, never got frustrated and tried to find both solid passing lanes and shooting lanes that's why he had no giveaways, 0 PIM, and only 5 shot attempts. In other words he played very solid and smart hockey. I'm predicting that tonight he does the same but watches some tape today and figures out how to put the biscuit in the basket at least once if not twice tonight.

Predictions are hard because we don't really know who will man the blueline tonight, I'll write more about what I thought and think of the Shoane Morrisonn penalty call and alleged possible suspension after I see if he is indeed suspended as Coach Boudreau mentioned was a possibility. In any case just because something is hard doesn't mean I won't do it - my predictions for today/tonight:

1) Final score Caps 4 - Panthers 2;
2) Semin has at least a two point night;
3) Backstrom has at least a two point night;
4) Knuble scores a goal;
5) Somebody we don't expect, probably Erskine scores a goal;
and 6) Shoane Morrisonn is indeed, wrongly, suspended for two games... more on that later...

I'll be watching from the comfort of my den here in Bristow -


Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Plans for the Evening - Dashed In An Instant - Drats! Blue Jackets 5 - Caps 4 (OT)

I had it all planned watch the Caps take on and "no doubt" return to their winning ways against the Blue Jackets at home and then come and write my blog about what a great October it was for the Caps and how despite having some things to work on they were starting November off right. Well, that was the plan so I wouldn't need to get all upset and worked up watching "my Phillies" take on the Yankees so I wouldn't get to sleep until late and then have to go pick up "Wingman" when his red-eye from Long Beach lands at 05:15 tomorrow morning. Well it's clear to me right now at 8:11PM that plan just really had no hope from the "get go" as they say. Starting with the obvious, the Caps didn't win, next of course the Caps at least as of right now have to be wondering what the status is of Alexander Ovechkin who didn't play the last ~33:30 of the game, and besides being worked up about that I'm having horrible thoughts about Referee Mike Leggo; as well as recurring bad "waking dreams" (kind of like Paul Atredes in Dune) where I keep seeing Tom Poti's two misplays that led first to the 4-4 tie goal and then his entire misplay of R.J. Umberger that led to the OT winner by Columbus.

Why Mike Leggo? you might ask. Well basically if you go back to about 15 - 30 seconds before the Raffi Torres' tying goal you'll see a bit of "tuss up" in the corner that should have, no I'll say it would have led to at least a clear of the puck, if not a break out and empty net goal, but alas Mike Leggo was in the way. Bottom line is that Jeff Schultz should have ignored Leggo's presence and driven Jakub Vorecek into both Leggo and the boards but that's probably too much to ask, even with the improved, more pohysical of late Schultz. Actually I hope when he watches the tape of that encounter that is indeed the lesson that Schultz, who I am actually starting to like (a lot more than I like Tom Poti tonight) takes away from the encounter. Leggo of course with one to two small steps in either direct could have easily stayed out of the play and still be in the right position to make whatever call was necessary. Further, I'm probably being unfair to Mike Leggo, I should be frustrated with the entire lot of NHL officials since it seems to me they all now do this. This being stay in the corner too long after it's obvious that they probably don't need to be there to call the goal line. Further, since whenever there's a close call on that they go to the replay in Toronto why be there at all? I know this rant will illicit a lot of discussion about the reasons to be there if you are an official, I've been thinking about and decided I probably don't agree, I think the referees and linesmen need to do a better job of staying out of the play. I mean tonight they blew at least 4 or 5 calls (not in a one sided manner) anyway and the game now moves so fast such results and statistics are more the norm then the exception anyway.

Now the other big reason my plan is totally flawed and was doomed is there's really nothing to write about tonight other than the thing to worry about/think about is what does it mean when you say Alex Ovechkin is "day to day" with an upper body injury? It means to me at best he has some really bruised ribs and at worst you're looking at something like what happened to Sidney Crosby early last season. So the good news he skated off the ice under his own power, there's enough time left and the Caps have enough other talent up front that he doesn't need to rush back, he should let the injury heal. The bad news is that's really not his style, but I hope he does take the time to let what it is heal.

So now even though my original plan is basically now probably pointless and "flumoxxed," I'm going to return to it. If nothing else it should be therapy for me. Also if you read this blog, you probably read other hockey and Caps blogs and they will have more then enough discussion, etc. on a) Ovie's injury (which until a couple days go by will be some semblance of the prior paragraph with a lot more angst and words, IMO); and b) "oh my what should Boudreau do without Ovechkin, is the season lost? I mean they ended October on a low note and now this!" (Pardon me for my sarcastic drama, it's just that since moving to the DC area in 1996 I've found the local sports fans and press quite melodramatic and reactionary - unlike, calm cool collected 'moi.)

So for the month of October, let's review the Capital's record: 8-2-3, 19 points. That's 0.731 hockey; it also means that 84.6% of the time they played the Capitals came away with at least 1 point. It's one of the best starts in franchise history, the Caps are also drawing fans like never before and they will continue to do so., as they are a lot of fun to watch. Folks will point to the way they are winning as unsatisfying and also point to the fact that 9 of their 13 games in October were one goal games and the Caps should be winning by more and putting more teams away and keeping them there through all three periods. That's hard to argue with, of course as a fan, coach or player that's what you'd like to see. However some of the other discussions about how for example they played two games against the "lowly" Islanders and only came away 1-0-1 I can and will argue with. First and foremost those "lowly" Islanders really aren't that lowly, in my opinion. The Islanders have played in 8 one goal games out of the 13 they've played. They also finished the second half of October 4-3-2 including three straight wins over the Rangers (3-1), the Caps (4-3 in OT), and the Sabres (5-0). Of course there was that worrisome game against the Thrashers who the Capitals beat by only one goal (4-3) in Atlanta last Thursday. Those same Thrashers who with Ilya Kovalchuk still out downed the Ottawa Senators last night 3-1 in a game that wasn't really as close as the score might lead some to believe. Of course no one seemed to have a problem with the 4-2 win over the Flyers so we need not talk about that, though to be fair the Flyers only have 13 points (the same number as the Islanders and just two more than the Thrashers). My bottom line is similar to the central theme from "Any Given Sunday" - in today's NHL thanks to the parity the salary cap encourages, on any given night, any of the thirty teams can beat any of the others.

Sure, some NHL Teams have more talent and the advantage, but you need to fight for every standings point, there really are no "gimmes" in today's NHL. So yes there's plenty to work on and the Capitals now have to make up for either a star who is out or somewhat slowed for at least a few games but wouldn't you rather have those now counting tonight's OT loss to Columbus 8 one point games that resulted in 1 or 2 standings points then the alternative? I know my answer. I also know this team is good and can still win, even with AO out for a game or even five or six to properly heal Tonight with Ovechkin not even on the bench they scored three goals on Steve Mason and the Blue Jackets - a team and a goaltender that it's not that easy to solve. Sure we all want Ovie back as soon as it makes sense but I've been saying for some time the Caps have the players on the team who can and will score if Ovie isn't there. Tonight Brooks Laich potted two and the energy line in the form of Quintin Laing got one. Assuming Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brendan Morrisson, Mike Green and Mike Knuble also rise to the occasion, even though the Caps have three games each this week and the next three, they'll survive and may even keep up this amazing start. Look at tonight, if not for two "flukey" goals the Caps would have won in regulation. You had to feel for Jose Theodore on those two goals they were "real buzzkillers" eh? Also, for what it's worth when was the last time you saw two of those in a single game? Ugh.

In conclusion I still keep having this waking dream/vision of Tom Poti on the OT goal though. So here's my thought, why did he go down to the ice so fast in the first place? Second, when that didn't work why didn't he get back up quicker and get into position? Finally, why is he finding himself on the inside of shooters so many times this year? Watch the replay of the OT goal, remember it's a 4-3, first Poti tries to move Umberger from the front of the net, how? by cross checking him four times in rapid succession, risking another penalty. Then he tries to draw him out by going outside of him, where he should have been in the first place "in the new NHL". When he does that Umberger takes even more separation and while Poti is moving he leave a passing lane, that's why he went down to the ice - I don't have the talent to play at the NHL level but at $3.5M/season, the reason Poti gets that kind of coin to play hockey is he has the talent and the reach to use his stick to cut off that pass and shot while he is getting back into position. Why he didn't do it tonight, that's the source of this bad "waking dream." I'm also betting from his "post-goal reaction that when he watches the film/tape on the last 30 seconds or so of the game that my reaction and Tom Poti and Bob Woods reaction are about the same. With 26:33 of ice time an assist, a blocked shot and one takeaway, it's tough for me to be too down on Tom Poti but I am a little bit because of those last two goals he was on the ice for, given he's a professional athlete I'll figure he's more down on himself and move on fo now.

Well hey, it was a one point night, that's one point of the 20 the Caps have as they start the month of November as the #4 team in the league and the #2 team in the Eastern Conference. Next up the New Jersey Devils at "the Rock" in Newark on Wednesday evening. Here's hoping for continued good fortunes and great play from Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich, as well as great games from all the other Caps in the lineup this month. Also here's to continue 0.600+ hockey...