Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Look Ahead GAME 2 of 82; Tampa Bay Lightning 1-1-0 at Washington Capitals 1-0-0

The reigning back to back Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning come into Washington DC today to take on the Washington Capitals who won their season opener against the New York Rangers on Wednesday evening 5-1 in regulation.  Tampa Bay lost their home opener to Tuesday evening 6-2 in regulation then beat the rebuilding Red Wings 7-6 in Overtime in Detroit on Thursday evening.

Those middling results by the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Lightning might make us Capitals fans very optimistic.  Unfortunately for us Caps fans, they don't tell the whole story.  Yes, Tampa Bays home opener was clearly not a good evening for the Lightning, and Thursday's game seems like it could have gone either way when you look at the bottom line result a 7-6 (OT) win.  What those numbers and results don't tell us is that the OT victory in Detroit was a comeback win from a 6-3 deficit at 7:10 in the third period; for the last 12:50 of regulation, and the 2:43 of three on three overtime, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked and played like the team that has won back to back Stanley Cups. Steven Stamkos scored two goals; as did Ondrej Palat (whose second goal was the OT GWG). The Lightning's power play was "ON" throughout the game. The Lightning outshot the Red Wings 48-26 SOG throughout the night, and "won" the face-off battles 30-26. Basically the Bolts are basically almost back playing to form, the only statistical weakness for them is their team SV% 75.38% through their first two games. That seems likely to markedly improve pretty quickly now the front end of the Lightning's game seems to have gotten on track.

The Capitals come into their second game of the season with Nicklas Backstrom still on LTIR, and having played well in most aspects of the game during their home opener, though they started very sluggishly and didn't play well in the first period against the Rangers and the only solid face-off man they can count on to likely win draws being Nic Dowd. Regardless wether Vitek Vanecek or Ilya Samsonov get the start this evening, the Lightning are not the Rangers and the Capitals need to come out ready to play from the opening puck drop, against Detroit the Lightning had 48 shots on goal, 15 in the first period, and 16 in the second period.  Odds are they will come out for tonight's game against the Capitals brining on all cylinders.  To win, the Capitals need to play all sixty minutes like they played the final 40 of their home opener against the Rangers.  Somebody, in addition to Nic Dowd, needs to have a FO% > 50%; and the team defense needs to be relatively stifling of the Tampa Bay star forwards.

Players to watch:

Capitals: Alex Ovechkin; our selected goaltender; our energy line; Anthony Mantha; John Carlson

Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy; Victor Hedman; Nikita Kucherov; Corey Perry; Alex Kilorn.

I'm not making a prediction as I'm hoping this is a tossup; tightly played game that results in another two points for my Washington Capitals but I have lots of concerns, too many to quantify about that.


Friday, October 15, 2021

How Big a Thing is it that Alex Ovechkin is Number 5 on the NHL All Time Scoring List?

 Okay a lot of sportswriters are writing about this topic or will this 2021-2022 NHL Season.  Ovechkin moved to number 5 on the list in the Washington Capitals season opening night win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday evening.  But how big is it? and who are these legends and names Ovechkin keeps humbly referring to the honor he feels to be among them?  Well its a huge deal, and they are really, really hockey greats like really GOAT (Greatest of All Time) kind of players.  Over the next couple of weeks I'll research and blog more about this.  I've been a hockey fan for 50+ years and played the game in my own marginal fashion from age 8 (midget hockey) through age 27 (beer league) following being a second rate player on a DIII team in college.  The names on the top 50 all time list include players I loved to watch when I was a high schooler and college age avid NHL fan.  I'll blog about them, when the tribute from Marcel Dionne was upon the Jumbotron after the Great 8 scored his second goal at the opener, I recalled watching Dionne streak down the ice in his yellow and purple Kings colors past my then team the Flyers (don't hate I grew up in Philadelphia) and put the biscuit in the basket past Bernie Parent thinking: "How could that happen Kate Smith sang "God Bless America" tonight?  But I digress.

Let's start putting the overall achievement and magnitude of what we Capitals fans have been seeing from Ovechkin since he came into the NHL into context.  First of the current all time NHL goal scoring list only three (3) of the fifty (50) are currently active players on NHL rosters on any of the current 32 teams: Ovechkin at 5; Patrick Marleau at 23; and Sidney Crosby at 49.  There is no doubt in my mind that those three men are hockey players who are of generational talent level skill and accomplishment; and they will be first ballot HHOF members.  One only has to look at the other 47 names on that list to confirm that statment. Of the top 50 listed number 50, Brian Bellows, had 485 goals in 1188 games played over his; compare that to Ovechkin's 732 as of Wed. night in 1198 games; compare Ovechkin's 732 in 1198 games to all time number 4) Brett Hull's 741 goals in 1269 games or all time number 3) Jaromir Jagr's 766 goals in 1733 games and then you can understand why a lot of people including myself think Alex Ovechkin could indeed possibly surpass both Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe at the number 2 spot with his 801 goals on the list and even, maybe, just maybe The Great Gretzky for the number one spot with his 894 goals, though I expect for Ovechkin to do so will take the full length of the five seasons he has on contract through the 2025-2026 NHL Season.

As I look at more of this and put where Ovechkin falls on this list, I plan on researching and looking at the careers first of the other 9 names on the top 10 all-time goal scorers list.  I also plan to look closer at Alex Ovechkin's career and what roles and how important he has and continues to be to my now favorite team the Washington Capitals, hoping to explain why I think people who feel Ovechkin isn't a 200 foot player and so much more important to the Capitals than "a great goal scorer" really are not correct. 

The top 10 list has the following names on it: 

10) Steve Yzerman: 692 goals; 1514 games played

 9) Mark Messier: 694 goals; 1756 games played

 8) Mike Gartner: 708 goals; 1432 games played

 7) Phil Esposito: 717 goals; 1282 games played

 6) Marcel Dionne: 731 goals; 1348 games played

 4) Brett Hull: 741 goals; 1269 games played

 3) Jaromir Jagr: 766 goals; 1733 games played

 2) Gordie Howe: 801 goals; 1767 games played

 1) Wayne Gretzky: 894 goals; 1487 games played.

I expect it will take a fair amount of time and effort to research and compose these nine blogs but I think it will be worth it and very interesting to do it.  If the results are as enjoyable to do that as I think it will be I'll do more of that sort of stuff and be posting more of these sorts of thing in addition to my fanboy type posts when I go to games as part of the Season Tickets I share or watch on TV.  After the past 18 months of this pandemic stuff these sorts of exercises are more interesting diversions for me than contemplating my navel or other things.  

In the meantime:


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thirty Six (36) - It's Just A Number But 732 and 674 Are Significant Numbers

 Well I don't know if anyone will read this post it's been a long while since I posted but I had a thoroughly enjoyable time this evening attending the Washington Capitals 2021-2022 NHL Season Opener at Capital One Center.  What a great hockey game to watch if you were a Washington Capitals fan like I am.

If you had told me back when I saw Alex Ovechkin first play for the Washington Capitals at then Verizon Center in 2005-2006, I was going to see him score his 731st and 732nd NHL goals 16 years later and the he'd score a shorthanded goal to surpass Marcel Dionne for number 5 on the NHL All Time Scoring list, I really don't know what I'd have said.  I mean from his first NHL season I think we knew we were watching a guy with special talent, possibly generational talent, but legendary talent? That wasn't yet something I suspected.  I mean every time over the past two seasons when asked by sports journalists "What's it mean to pass <Insert Legend's Name Here>, Alex clearly indicates it's very special and somewhat humbling.  But on the way home from the game tonight I thought about watching games that Marcel Dionne played and fantastic goals he scored in the late 1970's while he played for the Los Angeles Kings, he was just so, so good, you rarely thought of him as being only 5'8" tall but he is and he had such awesome hands and shot placement.  How amazing and legendary was Marcel Dionne as an NHL Player - well in January 2004, Dionne was one of six NHL All-Stars immortalized in a series of Canadian postage stamps.  That's pretty legendary to have your face on a national postage stamp, that's the company Alex Ovechkin is now among.  Thank you Mr.Ovechkin for all the wonder and joy you've filled my and other hockey fans, especially us Washington Capitals fans for the past 17 seasons.  It's been so cool to me to watch so many of your 732 goals live in person from my seat in Section 103 since you've entered the league.

In other hockey news this evening at 7th and F Streets in Washington DC, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette won his 674th game as an NHL Coach, surpassing John Tortorella as the US Board NHL coach with the most career wins; as an aside he did so when our/his Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers, the team Laviolette played for, 5-1. During the game Capitals First Round Draft pick, 19 year old Hendrix Lapierre played his first NHL game and scored his first NHL goal.  Lapierre's first NHL goal was a beauty, a "goal scorer's goal" as the cliche' goes.  Lapierre had a great camp this fall to earn his spot on the opening night roster, and looked excellent all night long. Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek played an excellent game as well, especially during the first period, where the Capitals had a slow start and were outplayed by every measure by the Rangers however, thanks to Vanecek, and a PPG by TJ Oshie, primary asset to Alex Ovechkin, the score at the end of the first period was Capitals 1 - Rangers 0.

Thankfully the Capitals came out for the second period "hitting on all cylinders" took control of the game and played the entire second period with control, discipline and speed.  By the end of the second period Justin Schultz had a PPG; and just 24 seconds after that Lapierre scored his first NHL goal with both his parents and grandparents in attendance to see him play in his first NHL game; that was just very cool. The second period ended with the score Capitals 3 - Rangers 0.

The third period was well played, especially by the Capitals, but despite Rangers speedster, Chris Kreider scoring a PPG for the Rangers, to break Vanecek's bid for a shutout; it really was "The Alex Ovechkin Show."  Just after the start of the third period, the Capitals went on the power play. The Caps PP was excellent all game long, during this one, Alex Ovechkin potted a rebound down low on the left side of the low slot to net his 731st career goal and tie legendary 5'8" scorer Marcel Dionne for number 5 on the All Time List; a goal that put the Capitals up 4-0 just 2;37 into the period.  Then at 9:13 in the period Kreider scored his shutout breaking PPG making it 4-1. At the 10:05 mark of the third, TJ Oshie was called for tripping and sent to the sin bin; this set the stage for what ended up enabling all of us in the sellout opening night crowd, a rare event as regards Alex Ovechkin goals - the Great Eight scored career goal 732 while the Capitals were short handed, and took sole possession of spot Number 5 on the NHL All Time Goal Scoring list.  Wow, just WOW.

Takeaways from the opening night game versus the Rangers:

1) In the second and third periods, the Capitals looked faster and more "in synch" that the Rangers.  The new faces in the lineup all younger blood played well and seem to be blending in well with the veterans.  To me thats just very, very encouraging.

2) Vanecek (SV% 0.958) had a much, much better game than Georgiev (SV% 0.815).  Regardless of how everything else goes in an NHL game, it's a rare night a team looks good when their goaltender has a SV% < 0.880 - the Rangers need him to play much closer to his ability if they are to achieve their goals for this season.  Of course it doesn't help matter when your team's ownership is stuck in the 80's wasting $1.75M of salary cap space and a roster spot on the 2021-2022 version of Nick Fotiu (aka Ryan Reaves.)

3) The Capitals woes in the Face-off Circle a carry over from last season continued through this Season's opener. The Rangers took 61% of the draws.  That's just not good enough.  They need to bring in a specialist to examine what they are doing wrong closely and work with their centerman to fix this issue, else it will be an arrow to their heart in some important games between now and hopefully next June.

Looking ahead to next game vs. Tampa Bay on Saturday evening, the Capitals have to come out faster in the first period, and be harder on the puck as well as much better in the face off circle. That said last night's game was a great start of the season, the Capitals passing game looked much better than the Rangers and the Capitals played with more structure and disciple than their opponents. Additionally, the Capitals' shot select was much better than the Rangers making their puck possessions much more productive particularly from the start of the second period and through the end of the third period.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

In case you didn't realize it....

Good Morning all!  It's a beautiful day here in Northern Virginia, I have the heat off and the windows open.  I love spring, always have and likely always will.

So just an FYI for my fellow hockey fans, in case you missed it the old NHL Southeast Division is loving and pretty much tearing up the temporarily COVID realigned standings.  All five former Southeast Division teams are well in the thick of the hunt to make the 2021 Postseason Playoffs.  My Washington Capitals are just two points behind the NY Islanders (but with a game in hand) in Second Place in the "Mass Mutual" East Division.  The Winnipeg Jets (former Atlanta Thrashers) are in third place in the "Scotia" North and are three points/a game and a half ahead of fourth place Montreal. Finally in a surprising twist the other three former Southeast Division Teams, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida are stacked in first, second, and third place respectively in the "Discover" Central division and are all at least three and a half games ahead of the fourth place Chicago Blackhawks.

What a difference a decade makes....

Well that's my musing this morning.  I plan on planting some bulbs and if I can find them a couple of nice yellow rose bushes today to relax.  Thanks to Sam Ruiz and his "crew" from Ruiz Landscaping, my spring yard cleanup has been completed, looks beautiful and in combination with todays lovely weather is inspiring. Tonight I'll watch the Caps-Flyers game (Lets Go Caps!!!).

Hoping everyone stays, safe, healthy and well!