Sunday, November 21, 2010

First to 30 But ...

Well the 2010 - 2011 NHL Regular Season is basically 25% completed and the Washington Capitals are the first NHL Team to reach 30 points, an interesting thing to note immediately after the Capitals lost their second game in a row last night. A rare home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in a shootout, it was an exciting game to watch and just about everything I don't like to see in a hockey game but more on that later. First a few other notes and thoughts since this is my first blog post since last Monday.

As I opened with the NHL season is now 25% complete and with 25% of the games played one can do some reasonable analysis and forecasting based on that analysis. I haven't done that yet but I will shortly. The simplest extrapolation to do though is that the Capitals are now on pace for a 117 point regular season. Given the magic number for the Eastern Conference is now between currently looking to be around 85 points, it's likely that the Capitals are on pace for another playoff appearance. As such I will officially stop worrying that they might take the fact that not everyone makes the playoffs seriously enough, to bed. Right now the Capitals are 2 1/2 games ahead of the second place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Southeast Division and 1 game ahead of the second place Flyers and a half (4 1/2) games ahead of the eighth place Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference. Overall the Capitals have been playing at least as good this regular season as they did last season when they won the President's Trophy - a true Hockey Non-Event - in the the regular season. Throughout the league what my gut says is that the hockey is better this season than last - I attribute this to the growing parity around the league driven by the maturity of the salary cap; while the quality of the officiating has just gone downhill and there's multiple reasons for that IMO.

Sine my last blog post, the Capitals played three games and went 1-1-1. On Wednesday evening they beat Buffalo here in DC by a score of 4-2 in a hard fought game that was one of their best yet so far this year. On Friday they lost to the Thrashers in Atlanta getting shutout by a score of 5-0 in what could well be their worst game in a long time. Then last evening we had the 5-4 Shootout loss to the Flyers here at Verizon Center. Throughout last night's loos though the Capitals played hard the full sixty five minutes. At times clearly the referees felt the Caps were playing a little too hard and that's probably why they called a total of nine (9) minor penalties and gave the Flyers nine (9) power play opportunities last night. To be clear the referees also called affair number of penalties on the Flyers - seven (7) to be exact. The result was the Capitals tallied three (3) power play goals while the Flyers also put a (one - 1) goal on the scoreboard while they had the man advantage. So let m e make a note - there's the first thing I hated about last night's game - the referees and linesman figured too prominently in the outcome. Exacerbating my dismay in this area is the fact that on at least three occasions the officials got in the way of the play and affected who got the puck and where they got it on the ice. Further many of the penalties were IMO - weak calls - and on at least four occasions the official calling the play didn't appear to have anywhere near a good line of sight to the infraction that he called. Those calls were:
a) Ville Lieno - Hooking 2:00 at 2:02 of the second period;
b) Eric Fehr - Boarding 2:00 at 15:43 of the second;
c) Matt Bradley - Interference 2:00 at 14:31 of the third;
d) Nicklas Backstrom - Interference 2:00 at 3:12 of overtime.

Other "weak calls" IMO:
i) Scott Hartnell - Slashing 2:00 at 7:39 of the second - to me it looked like Hartnell just got a penalty for being a bonehead and mouthing off.
ii) Brooks Laich - Goaltender Interference 2:00 at 12:50 of the second period, watch that replay and try and fine the interference .... should be fun for you, especially if you haven't had a chance to play where's Waldo lately...

Then in addition to those calls driving parts of the game, there's the whole matter of just how much I do NOT like shootouts. Of course if someone can show me a shot by someone that comes anywhere or anyway closer to being a goal and then doesn't go in the net than Alexander Semin's shootout attempt last night, I will be totally surprised.

Good things to take away from last night's game:
1) We got a point;
2) We never gave up;
3) The Capitals really are a better team than the Flyers, the fact they were able to get a point last night while not one puck seemed to bounce their way and they kept hammering at it, well that's just a good thing.
4) The next time the Caps and Flyers play each other, we really ought to have DJ King on the ice just so he can stomp on Scott Hartnell when he needs to be stomped on. Trust me that would be at least two shifts.
5) Eric Fehr 2:00 for boarding - watch that one on youtube and find something wrong with that check ... seriously...

Next up, the Devils, away at "The Rock" in Newark tomorrow evening.


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