Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Addictions ...

So we all have a few things that we enjoy so much they become addictions and then at some point we may get the idea that even those things in obsessive, large quantities might not be so healthy. Thus, we may start to hear phrases like "All things in moderation..." in the voice we recall our Mother's having in our youth...

For me right now, to the disappointment of those looking for a "juicier story given this post's title", my addictions are all pretty boring. First there is my morning coffee, or what passes for coffee but is really a sweet, refreshing soft drink from Caribou Coffee. Thankfully, we are now back on Eastern Standard Time so at 7:30 AM when I went to get mine today, it was a lovely morning here in Bristow, VA.

A more risky addiction I've developed over the past couple of years has been watching the Washington Capitals play and win NHL games - live and in person at Verizon Center. Thankfully, at least so far, this season it doesn't look like I'll undergo withdrawal on too regular a basis. However, it seems at least so far this season, the habit now also is often accompanied by the anxiety that goes with watching them "make games more exciting that they need to be. Such was the case the last two games but hey, two points is two points, in other words you get the same amount of points for winning 7-2 in regulation as you do for wining 3-2 in overtime. More on that 3-2 overtime win thing later.

My final current addiction is of course blogging. However, so far over the past couple of months I've been working on that and as you can see from the spaces and irregular posting schedule, etc. there is nothing compulsive and a lot less obsessive about my blogging these days. I just feel there is no reason to rush to the keyboard, etc. right after a game and share my thoughts on the Caps right after a game these days. The truth is I'm a fan, of the game of hockey for the past 40 years, of the Washington Capitals for the last 7 years and in a big way for the last 5 years. However, while occasionally I have an insight that may be well insightful, and that isn't widely shared, it's rare my view of a particular game or incident isn't already being widely discussed and well presented elsewhere in the media, especially here in the "blogsphere." I try and bring a fans perspective and that of an educated fan to my posts and I try to bring some first hand information/point of view to them - in other words to add to the overall information content here in the blogsphere on the Capitals. However, the truth is it's really not a thing that is easily done, especially for we fans - people whose day jobs aren't sports or news gathering and reporting. As such, I've just sort of concluded that rushing back from a game to get my blog up, is for me something that just doesn't make all that much sense. Also given the fact that I've concluded my "unique contributions" are a small percentage of the bytes I type here, it would be a little bit, just a little bit, self important and self absorbed to think of my blogging as anything other than an outlet for me. That said I'm still a blogger with my own blog and I miss many of the bloggers and blogs that have been absorbed and merged into other bigger, more commercial blogs that used to be here on the net, that's why when I was a very OCD poster and worked at trying to create content (statistical analyses, etc.) I resisted the two invites I had to merge this blog into one of those vehicles and be a contributor to them. That said, the longer I do this, and the more I see and read those blogs the more I feel such an evolution was inevitable here in the blogsphere. Finally, this week, actually last night, I found Goat's blog and I really like the format he's using for his posts about prior games. It's unique, fun (like you would expect from this guy), and brings something to the table here in the blogsphere, not found elsewhere. In addition to saying congratulations to Goat and his bride Jill on their recent nuptials, I just want to suggest to anyone who reads my blog that Goat's blog seems definitely worth following.

One final "blogsphere" question/thought before a paragraph or two on the Caps final win of the last home stand and one or two on their upcoming game at Madison Square Garden. So just when I was getting worried about one of the two inspirations and models I've had when it comes to having entered "life on/in the Blogssphere" - Peerless - he comes out with one of his best posts yet. Today's post on The Peerless Prognosticator provides an awesome summary of the Capitals first 14 games and using real data to dispel some misconceptions some commonly held and others that I'm in the minority of holders. As always it's done in a well written, and jocular style. If you haven't already read his post today, here's a link to it. Glad you are back on the air Peerless.

Okay so Sunday's game, Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): it was awesome, good hockey and great fun. The goaltending at the Flyers end was most excellent the entire game and in Washington's end of the ice, after Braden Holtby got over some initial jitters and cut down the number of rebounds he was giving up, basically in the seocnd and third periods, his play was even better than Sergei Bobrovsky's (IMO). On that note when you read this NHL Rule, assuming you understand the incident I'm referring to, can you explain to me how Bobrovsky did NOT get a delay of game penalty on Sunday?
Reference Rule 63.2: "A minor penalty shall be imposed on a goalkeeper who, when he is in his own goal crease, deliberately falls on or gathers the puck into his body or who holds or places the puck against any part of the goal in such a manner as to cause a stoppage of play unless he is actually being checked by an opponent."
On Sunday, Bobrovsky held onto the puck with NO Capital anywhere near him for well over 6 seconds while he had Kimmo Timonem standing behind him waiting for him to throw the puck back to him and keep playing going. The whistle sounds and the refs and linesman go over to the scorer and talk for 1/2 minute to a minute and then they don't call a penalty on him that they should have called. Makes me wonder - a) Why have the rule at all? and b) Which of the diplomatic officials was arguing Bobrovsky's case which couldn't have been anything other than something on the order of "Hey give him a break, he's a rookie, it's a tight game, and he doesn't understand English, which we were yelling at him, nor apparently does he understand Finnish which I'll assume was what that old goat Kimmo was talking to him in." Anyway, it just seemed like a bizarre sequence to me, but typical of the arbitrary rules enforcement we've been seeing all season and that certainly was the way this game was called. Note, it was an evenly called game but if someone can point to anything that is now being consistently called or not called relative to any level of interpretation of the rules in the NHL this season, please let me know.

As for the rest of the team and game, Alexander Semin was once again very good, as was the first line - who would expect less. Backstrom had two points, Ovechkin 1 point and Knuble 1 point - all on assists. The first Capitals goal of the game was the definition of secondary scoring - Eric Fehr who split his time on Sunday between the Second, Third and Fourth Lines got his third goal of the season while John Erskine and Tyler Sloan got the assists on it. Mike Green got the first star of the game and he deserved it. "Game Over" scored the game winner - a power play goal - just 29 seconds into overtime so there really wasn't too much ice time required for completion of the OT period, however with Tom Poti still out, Green logged 30:26 of TOI including 2:30 on the PK unit and 7:33 on the power play unit. Ice Time for the rest of the Capitals team was basically pretty normally and distributed as you would expect. Another note - no matter what you do for a living or how old you are, your Mom will always love you, worry about you and be your Mom. David Steckel's parents sat in the row in front of us and a couple of seats to our left on Sunday. When at the 16:05 mark of the third period Chris Pronger basically took himself out of the rest of the game by high sticking Mrs. Steckel's son and cutting his face, she changed from a reserved person who has clearly watched her share of hockey games into a concerned mom. She stood (I'm pretty sure that was but one of two or three times the entire game) leaned forward with a Mom's worried look until she was able to see her boy was alright and not cut too badly as he got onto the Capital's bench. Relative to Chris Pronger, as noted by Down Goes Brown, Pronger is an easy guy to root against/boo when he's on the opposing team, as is Scott Hartnell. I'll give Hartnell kudos for looping his locks for charity but as I say, his style of play is easy to dislike when he's on the opposing team. So it did bring joy to my heart knowing that it was very likely Pronger's 4:00 penalty for High-Sticking Steckel was likely going to cost the his team the game, even before Green scored the winner in OT. Actually, I was a little disappointed the Capitals didn't win it in regulation, and I think they were too and that's why the Capitals top players who were on the ice when the game winner was scored played those final 29 seconds with such energy.

I was at Sunday's game and I've looked at the stats post game - can you tell me how if you are the DC mainstream media you give Brayden Coburn of the Flyers the Third Star of the Game - vice either a Capital or Sergei Bobrovsky, when you give Braden Holtby the second star of the game? I know Coburn led all players on the ice in hits (7) and blocked shots (4) but despite that I watched the game and didn't really think he was all that much a factor, especially when compared with Bobrovsky who stopped 36 of 39 Capitals SOG (SV% 0.923) at least 3 or 4 of which kept his team in contention for the game and could be classed as having "robbed" the Capitals. Holtby's work, especially in the third period where he stopped all eight of the Flyers SOG including at least 3 good scoring chances along with the fact he won his first full NHL game in goal meant he was getting the second star but Coburn - really? Of course what can you expect in a town where we the fans do the "It's All Your Fault" cheer after things like an empty net goal (Friday Night) or a goal after a powerplay where two all star defensemen are on the Penalty Kill unit and on the ice. Oh well thanks to Chris Pronger and the Caps powerplay unit for sending us home happy after a really fun to watch, exciting game.

So now looking towards tonight's nationally televised game (Versus) between the Capitals and the Rangers at the GAHHH-den; what should we expect to see? I don't know about you but here's what I expect: a tight game between the Eastern Conference leading Capitals and the sixth place New York Rangers. Such as last year's series where though the Capitals had a 3-1 record against the Rangers their largest margin of victory was two goals on two occasions, while they won one game 6-5 and lost the first meeting between these two of the last regular season 4-3. The last meeting was in DC on March 8th and that game, Jose Theodore "pitched" a 30 SOG shutout to take the Capitals to their 13th win (score 2-0) in a row during an even longer winning streak. It looks like tonight's starting goaltender for the Capitals will be Michal Neuvirth, who will be looking to return to recent form and notch another win for his ninth of the season as the Capitals look to try and extend their current winning streak to five. Brooks Laich and Tom Poti have both made the trip to New York but will be in the press box with their current injuries. The Rangers will be without several notables as well, not the least of which being Marian Gaboriak. In the end, I expect Ludqvist to keep the Rangers close no matter how they play in front of him. If they play well, then the Capitals will have to respond and play better than the Rangers skaters, while Michal Neuvirth, if rested and back to form, should be able to stay close enough in performance to "King Henrick" for the Capitals to leave New York with two points. Of course, that's why you play the games on the ice though, with the Salary Cap well entrenched in the NHL and parity more a reality than ever, you never know till the final horn sounds.

Tonight will be the Capitals 15th of the season and so far they are on a similar pace and track as they were last regular season at this time. Given they won the President's Trophy last season, as far as regular seasons go, that's not bad. Fourteen games into the this season, the Caps have beaten every team they’ve faced except for the Minnesota Wild at least once. Although they fell to Atlanta and Boston, the Caps have also defeated the Thrashers and Bruins on at least one occasion. So to date, Washington has beaten eight different Eastern Conference clubs in the first month of the season. This week, they’ll take on three more Eastern Conference foes, starting with the Rangers tonight. As Coach Boudreau pointed out to the media today, it's important to distance yourselves from your division and conference foes this time of year, and for a relatively young team, especially the rookies and near rookies, to get used to and demonstrate they can handle the pace of the season during this next month, when the Capitals will be playing often every other night/day. As Boudreau was quoted over at the Capitals Official site by Mike Vogel: " “We’re looking to play New York [Tuesday]. But if we were lucky and we get by them, and you look to the next game and we get by them and then all of a sudden at the end of the week you’re going, ‘Holy smokes, we’ve got 26, 28 points.’ You’re putting teams behind you. And it’s a difficult league to catch up in, as we all know. If you put yourself five games under .500 right now, that means for the rest of the year you probably have to play a minimum of 10 games over .500 just to make the playoffs. So we want to play as hard as we can every night.”

Finally if you want a great hockey story about a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, check out Alan May's blog from yesterday ...

Now on to Madison Square Garden and the NY Rangers -


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